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General Richard Myers (file photo) 15 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The United States' top military officer has accused China and Russia of "trying to bully" smaller Central Asian countries that host U.S. troops.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard Myers, made the comment to reporters in response to a 5 July statement by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) calling on Washington to set a date for the withdrawal of American forces from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Shanghai organization groups Russia, China, and four Central Asian states.

Myers said he believes the United States could help bring security and stability to Central Asia and should be welcome in the region.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the U.S. bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are not "critical" to U.S. interests, and suggested the U.S. military has enough flexibility to get along without access to the bases.

Di Rita said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had not been in contact with his Uzbek and Kyrgyz counterparts since the Shanghai group statement.

(RFE/AP/AFP)

See also:

"China Seeks Closer Trade Ties With Central Asia"

Russia Could Double Troops At Kyrgyz Base; Future Of U.S. Base In Doubt

SCO -- Shoring Up The Post-Soviet Status Quo
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