Russia rejects bullying accusation by US
Updated: 2005-07-17 13:42

MOSCOW - Russia on Friday rejected accusations by the top U.S. military officer that it, along with China, was trying to bully smaller Central Asian nations out of hosting U.S. troops fighting terrorism.

"We have been bewildered by the comments" of Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

US military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in central Asia. [AP]
"As is well-known, all decisions made within the framework of the SCO are consensus-based and reflect the collective opinion of all the member-countries," the ministry said.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional alliance led by China and Russia, last week called on the U.S. to set a date for withdrawing forces from bases in the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Asked by a reporter what he thought of the SCO's statement, Myers said: "Looks to me like two very large countries were trying to bully some smaller countries."

U.S. forces have used a base in each of the two countries since the early days of the war in Afghanistan. Both governments recently questioned the need for continued U.S. access.

Uzbekistan has imposed new limits on U.S. use of its Karshi-Khanabad air base, after Washington criticized Uzbekistan's bloody crackdown on anti-government rioting in May that killed around 200 people according to the official toll though human rights activists say up to 750 died.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it wanted to see non-regional forces pull out from Central Asia once the task of combatting the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan was completed.

"As this task is carried out, this military presence should be withdrawn from the region," the ministry said.

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