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    Shanghai Cooperation Organization must express position on U.S. presence in Central Asia - expert

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    MOSCOW, June 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) should express its position on the U.S. presence in Central Asia, Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Leonid Ivashov said at a RIA Novosti press conference.

    The organization comprises Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

    According to Ivashov, Russian representatives often raise the issue of the terms and scales of the U.S. presence in the region. "Any presence should have time and scale limits," he said.

    Russia sees Central Asia as a highly important region and should resist to attempts to oust the Russian military presence from the area and replace it with U.S. or NATO forces, Ivashov said.

    "We should not have left Central Asian countries face to face with the U.S. in this issue. We should have expressed our position within the SCO framework on NATO striving for presence in the region," the expert said.

    "Unfortunately, this has not been done. It is impossible to break the U.S. and NATO resistance in the sphere of base preservation single-handed."

    Joint efforts are needed with Russia and China taking the lead, he added.

    The U.S. has given up its policy of deploying major bases in different regions and has started reducing the quantity of its military contingents but is improving the quality, Ivashov said. He set the example of U.S. instructors and observation means in Georgia. This presence threatens Russia's security because major forces may be deployed in Georgia anytime.

    U.S. forces may be deployed not only in Georgia but also in Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ivashov said. NATO proclaimed the Caucasus and Central Asia a strategic region at the Istanbul summit without preliminary consultations with Russia. "This is an issue of Russia's special concern, particularly, against the backdrop of frequent media reports on the upcoming collapse of Russia and the necessity to take Russian nuclear facilities under international control," the expert said.

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