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#15 - JRL 7266
Russia deems US military presence in Central Asia justified - diplomat

Moscow, 24 July: Neither Russia nor China are happy about US military presence in Central Asia, but Russia thinks it is justified, said Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov.

"US military presence in Central Asia is a new and very serious element in the regional alignment of forces," Losyukov said in an interview with Vremya Novostey newspaper, published on Thursday [24 July].

"It is a consequence of the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan. In its Taleban-governed variant [form], Afghanistan represented a lethal threat to Russia," he said.

"On our own, without China, which incidentally had a different attitude to the Taleban then, we could not have coped with this threat," he said.

Before 11 September, 2001, "our Chinese colleagues viewed the Taleban as an unpleasant factor that did not pose any direct threat to them. But after 11 September, China looked at the Taleban from a different angle and our constructive dialogue on this threat began. The American presence resulted from the struggle [fight] against this threat, and we were interested in this," said Losyukov.

"We do not view the USA as an opponent. It is our partner in this struggle, and our interests are the same in many ways. China understands this, as well," he said.

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