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Russia: U.S. Won't 'Squeeze Moscow Out' Of Central Asia

Moscow, 15 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is quoted as saying today that Washington does not aim to reduce Russian influence in Central Asia through its present military operations against Afghanistan. In an interview published in the Russian daily "Izvestia," Rice said U.S. policy is not aimed against the interests of Russia. She said the United States knows that Russia has serious interests in the Central Asia region, and that it does not "harbor any plans aimed at squeezing Russia out."

Her remarks follow expressions of concern from Russian commentators that any prolonged operation by U.S. forces using the former Soviet Central Asian states as a springboard would erode Russian influence in a region of strategic interest.

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans said during a trade mission to Moscow that American business ties with Moscow were improving, helped by Russia's reforms and its siding with an international coalition against terrorism. Evans said Russia is moving toward a market-based economy. He said that reforms and the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin are allowing Russia to become more globally integrated.