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    Post-Soviet security bloc unaware of U.S. plans for C.Asia bases

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    The head of a post-Soviet security bloc said on Thursday he had no information about the possible deployment of new U.S. military bases in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.

    MOSCOW, December 18 (RIA Novosti) - The head of a post-Soviet security bloc said on Thursday he had no information about the possible deployment of new U.S. military bases in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.

    A senior Russian military official expressed concern on Tuesday about what he said were U.S. plans to set up military bases in the former Soviet republics.

    "This is the first time I have heard about the deployment of such bases, and I cannot confirm this information," said Nikolai Bordyuzha, general secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

    He added that "any such decision" would have to be agreed on with the CSTO.

    "The Secretariat has received no such notification," he said.

    The CSTO is a security grouping comprising the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

    The press secretary of the U.S. embassy in Uzbekistan said earlier on Thursday that the U.S. administration had no plans to deploy any military bases in Uzbekistan.

    The Kazakh Defense Ministry also denied any knowledge of U.S. plans to deploy military bases in the country.

    "We know nothing about such plans, and we cannot confirm this information," a ministry source said.

    Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces said on Tuesday that, "The U.S. has opened bases in Romania and Bulgaria, and according to our information plans to establish them in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan."

    Former Soviet republics in Central Asia have been the focus of increased rivalry between Moscow and Washington of late.

    The United States has recently stepped up ties with oil-rich Kazakhstan, which allowed U.S. planes to fly over its territory during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and also contributed troops to Iraq.

    Observers in Russia say that Washington will need more bases in countries neighboring Afghanistan due to president-elect Barack Obama's plans to increase the U.S. military presence in the war-ravaged country by 20,000 troops.

    The U.S. has run an airbase in Kyrgyzstan since the war in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan expelled U.S. troops from its airbase in 2005, but has recently sought closer ties with the U.S. and other Western powers.

    Gen. Makarov also blamed Washington for pushing Georgia and Ukraine toward NATO membership. He said Russia had been surrounded by the military alliance's forces.

    The statement came amid an ongoing dispute over Washington's plans to place a missile base in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. Moscow opposes the plans as a threat to its national security. The U.S. says the missile defenses are needed to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states.

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