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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 01:25 GMT
US bonds with new leader in Baku
Donald Rumsfeld (archive)
Mr Rumsfeld would not be drawn on the issue of military bases
The US defence secretary has pledged to maintain military ties with Azerbaijan following the controversial election of a new president there in October.

"We intend to continue [our] military to military relationship with the new administration here," Donald Rumsfeld said on a visit to the capital Baku.

He appeared to evade a press question about the alleged vote-rigging which handed Ilham Aliyev the presidency.

The US, he said, would do more to help Baku fight terror and drug trafficking.

"The goal would be to work with the Azerbaijani navy and maritime forces," Mr Rumsfeld told reporters after talks with the Azerbaijani Defence Minister, Safar Abiyev.

Earlier, he had talks with President Aliyev who described the US as a "strategic partner for Azerbaijan".

Washington is believed to view the oil-rich Caspian state as an alternative source of fuel to the unstable Gulf region and there is speculation that it would like to base troops in the ex-Soviet republic.

Asked to comment on Wednesday, Mr Rumsfeld said: "We have nothing to announce today."




SEE ALSO:
Rum remark wins Rumsfeld an award
02 Dec 03  |  Americas
Profile: Donald Rumsfeld
20 Sep 01  |  Americas
Profile: Ilham Aliyev
16 Oct 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Azerbaijan
12 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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