Moscow, 9 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The leader of Russia's Communist Party today called the presence of "NATO forces" in Central Asia a security threat to Russia. Interfax quoted Gennady Zyuganov as saying in St. Petersburg that the alliance's forces in Central Asia mark "a penetration of a strategic region that undermines the security not only of Russia, but also China and a number of Arab countries."
The statement comes as the United States says it has given Russia a formal commitment that it will not set up permanent military bases in Central Asia.
The assurance was contained in a joint U.S.-Russian statement after a day of U.S.-Russian talks on Afghanistan held yesterday in Washington.
U.S. forces have used facilities at Khanabad in Uzbekistan and at Manas airport near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in support of military operations in Afghanistan. French troops are also to be temporarily based near Bishkek.