Moscow, 8 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev -- on a visit to Russia -- has said the international military presence in Central Asia poses no threat to Russia or Russia's influence in the region. Quoted late yesterday by the RIA-Novosti news agency, Akaev said any assertions to the contrary "had no basis" and are meant to "drive a wedge between Central Asia and Russia, and Russia and the United States."
Akaev said the temporary presence of U.S. troops in Central Asia is, "an additional shield of security," helping to root out terrorism, religious extremism, and drug trafficking.
Some 200 U.S. troops are deployed at an airport outside the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, as part of the U.S. campaign in neighboring Afghanistan. Some 1,500 U.S. troops are based at the Khanabad airbase in Uzbekistan for U.S. humanitarian missions in Afghanistan.