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Russia to discuss with U.S. non-military transit to Afghanistan

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Moscow is hoping for constructive talks with the U.S. on the transit of non-military cargo via Russia to Afghanistan, a top Russian diplomat said Wednesday.
MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is hoping for constructive talks with the U.S. on the transit of non-military cargo via Russia to Afghanistan, a top Russian diplomat said Wednesday.

His comments came a day after Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said he would demand the closure of a U.S. military base used to support antiterrorism operations in neighboring Afghanistan, citing Washington's refusal to discuss higher rental payments and its reluctance to address the 2006 killing by a U.S. officer of a local.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told journalists on Wednesday that Moscow had "in the last several days" given the United States a positive response on the issue of the possible transit of non-military cargo across Russia to Afghanistan.

"We hope that we [Russia] and the United States will hold special and professional talks on the issue in the near future," he said. "We will see how effectively we can cooperate."

The Russian diplomat also said Moscow was interested in a successful antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan led by international coalition forces and hoped that the closure of the U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan would not prove an obstruction.

"The U.S., Central Asia, China - we are all interested in an effective antiterrorism campaign to prevent the transportation of drugs to Europe and on to the United States," Karasin said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced plans to considerably increase troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan was set up in 2001 as a transit point for NATO supplies to the international coalition in Afghanistan and now houses more than 1,000 military personnel.

Russia backed the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, but its relations with NATO have deteriorated since over the bloc's ongoing eastward expansion and more recently an armed conflict with Georgia. Russia also has a military base in Kyrgyzstan under a post-Soviet security pact.

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