Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Uzbeks confirm cargo deal with US

Uzbek President Islam Karimov meets Gen Petraeus on 17 February 2009
Top US General David Petraeus (R) recently held talks with Mr Karimov

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has confirmed that the US will be allowed to transport supplies through his country to troops in Afghanistan.

Mr Karimov emphasised only non-military goods would be allowed through.

The US has been seeking new supply routes to Afghanistan since Kyrgyzstan ordered it to close a key air base earlier this month.

The Uzbek confirmation came a week after America's top military leader for the region visited Tashkent for talks.

Gen David Petraeus, the US commander for the Middle East and Central Asia, met Mr Karimov on 17 February to discuss using Uzbek rail networks for Afghan supply purposes.

Washington has already reached deals with Russia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan for non-military cargo to cross their land on the way to Afghanistan.

"Uzbekistan has agreed to allow non-military, I underline, non-military cargo to be transited through Uzbek territory to Afghanistan, in accordance with existing Uzbek legislation," Mr Karimov said.

His announcement is seen as evidence of warming ties with the US.

America used to have an air base in Uzbekistan that served troops operating in Afghanistan. But Uzbek authorities closed it in 2005 after criticism from the US and EU over a crackdown on a mass protest in the town of Andijan.

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