NATO does not plan new military base in Uzbekistan:NATO's spl envo

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Moscow, Mar 7 (UNI) NATO Secretary General's special envoy for the Central Asia and South Caucasus Robert Simmons today said the alliance does not plan to set up a new military base in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan.

''Relations between NATO and Uzbekistan are improving. However, the alliance does not have an opportunity to build a new base in Uzbekistan as it is not permitted to do this,'' Interfax news agency quoted Mr Simmons as saying at a Rose Roth Seminar in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

He, however, noted NATO would continue contribution in bolstering security of the region to combat the Afghan drug threat.

Mr Simmons also denied reports that he allegedly said during his stay in Moscow that NATO plans to build a military base in Uzbekistan.

He explained the only thing he said was that Germany had used the Termez airbase recently, and that it would be good if other countries would join it in using the base.

The NATO envoy had announced yesterday that Uzbek authorities had decided to lift the three-year-old ban on the US use of the military base in Uzbekistan.

He said after a number of events, particularly a discussion of human rights with several members of the European Union, situation has improved in Uzbekistan and the country has shown its readiness to collaborate.

The US and Uzbekistan have cooperated closely in the war against terrorism, and after the 9/11 events in 2001, American planes began landing at the base at Karshi-Khanabad and using those facilities for the NATO military operation in Afghanistan.

Relations between Washington and Tashkent suffered a major setback when Uzbekistan used its military to put down a rebellion in Andijan in May 2005. The West led by the US, criticised the human rights situation in the country under the president Islam Karimov.

In response, Uzbek authorities gave the US six months to leave the airbase at Karshi-Khanabad and the American military was forced to relocate to Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

UNI XC RJ KN1712

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