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Uzbekistan on prospects for U.S. military contingent at Khanabad airbase

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TASHKENT, July 7 (RIA Novosti) - The Uzbek Foreign Ministry has clarified Tashkent's position on prospects for the continued presence of an American military contingent at the Khanabad airbase.

The ministry said the U.S.-led military operation of the allied forces in the north of Afghanistan served as the basis for providing the Khanabad airbase to the U.S. Armed Forces and determined the terms of its contingent's presence there.

"The Uzbek-U.S. agreement on transit through Uzbekistan, access to and use of its military infrastructure, signed on October 7, 2001, was motivated, first of all, by the desire of Uzbekistan as a proactive member of the anti-terrorist coalition in Afghanistan to contribute to efforts against the Taleban and international terrorism to ensure Uzbekistan's territorial integrity, security and stability," the ministry said.

The ministry said no other future scenarios for the U.S. contingent operating from Uzbek territory had been considered.

The ministry added that the U.S. virtually made no payments to cover the extra expenses of the Uzbek party on the protection of Khanabad, the construction and use of the necessary infrastructure or to compensate for environmental damage and inconvenience for local people.

"These issues must be in the focus of the discussion on the U.S. contingent's further operation at Khanabad," the ministry said.

More than 1,500 U.S. soldiers have been stationed at the Khanabad American military airbase, situated in the southwest of Uzbekistan, since October 2001. The base was leased to the U.S. government for at least 20 years. A landing strip and infrastructure were built there with Washington's assistance. The Americans make use of an extra airfield in the village of Kokaity. There is an airbase in the town of Termez, situated on the Amu-Darya river and bordering on Afghanistan, where a German military contingent is stationed. This is mainly a transfer point for military cargoes for the needs of the anti-terrorist coalition and humanitarian aid.

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