Almaty, 11 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Kazakhstan's capital, Almaty, today to start a more than week long trip around the former Soviet Union. The First Lady's goals are to encourage the development of a civil society in the countries she tours and to emphasize topics of particular importance to her, such as women's and children's rights and religious tolerance.
Shortly after her afternoon arrival in Almaty, Mrs. Clinton participated in a round-table discussion with Kazakh youth at a school for future leaders that was recently established with American assistance.
Tomorrow, Mrs. Clinton will meet Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and address a conference on women in politics taking place in Almaty.
Local business leaders tell our correspondent they believe Clinton's visit indicates Washington's growing interest in Central Asia in general and in Kazakhstan in particular.
Officials have said they believe strengthening relations between Kazakhstan and the U.S. will help Kazakhstan further strengthen its independence. They say they also hope the visit will promote bi-lateral, economical relations and this will lay the ground for further Kazakh economic development.
After Almaty, Mrs. Clinton departs for Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. From there, she is scheduled to travel to the Uzbek cities of Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara.
The U.S. First Lady will then fly to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg for a meeting with Naina Yeltsin, wife of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, before flying on to Novosibirsk and closing her tour in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
For more information about the region, see Central Asia In Transition: Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan