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U.S. Defense Secretary In Moldova

26 June 2004 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today held talks with Moldovan leaders during a stopover visit en route to the upcoming NATO summit in Istanbul.

Rumsfeld met with President Vladimir Voronin, Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc, and Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan. He thanked Moldova's troops for serving in Iraq alongside U.S. and coalition forces.

Rumsfeld also called on the Moldovan government to settle the dispute over its separatist region of Transdniester and for Russia to withdraw its forces from Moldova.

"Certainly the countries of NATO and participants of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] do believe that the commitments made in Istanbul from five years ago should in fact be fulfilled," Rumsfeld said.

The Transdniester region, populated primarily by Russian-speakers, broke away from Moldova in 1990 before the collapse of Soviet rule.

Russian troops intervened in 1992 to help end a civil war with Transdniester and have since helped maintain an uneasy peace there.

(AFP, Reuters)