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Uzbekistan says no plans for new US military base

TASHKENT (AFP): Uzbekistan has denied it was in talks with Washington over a new US base after President Islam Karimov hosted a senior US military commander for talks.

A news report said this week that Tashkent was in talks with Washington over the possible opening of a new US base in the strategically located Central Asian state.

President Islam Karimov on Wednesday hosted Commander of the US Central Command Lloyd Austin for security talks.

During the meeting, Karimov questioned the US commander on what role Washington intended to play in the region after the planned withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan this year, Uzbek national television reported.

The US embassy confirmed the meeting, saying Austin and his Uzbek hosts "exchanged views on a range of issues related to regional security."

UzMetronom, an independent online news portal with close ties to Uzbek law enforcement agencies, said this week that Tashkent and Washington were in talks over the possible opening of a US base in the southern town of Termez close to the border with Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan denied the report on August 1.

"Uzbekistan's laws do not allow to host any foreign military bases on its territory," Adilbek Kaipbergenov, spokesman for Uzbekistan's foreign ministry, told AFP in an emailed statement.

The United States opened an airbase in Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan to support military operations against the Taliban following the September 11 attacks.

The Uzbek leadership shut down the US base when relations with Washington became strained over its criticism of the Uzbek government's handling of an armed uprising in the eastern city of Andijan in 2005.

But Uzbekistan, which boasts extensive railway links with Afghanistan, later permitted the US to use its territory to deliver non-military and humanitarian cargo to its troops across the border.

German forces have been using the airport at Termez since 2002 and have about 300 troops stationed there, mostly maintenance crews.


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