US will not be Russia's rival in Central Asia

The US says it will not become Russia's rival in the Central Asia nor establish its military bases in Tajikistan, said General Tommy Franks, Commander-in-Chief of the US Central Command following his meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov.

"I do not think Americans are planning to set up permanent military bases in Tajikistan," the general said, and, accordingly, "the US will not be Russia's rival in this sphere." "Russia is a very firm and strong friend. It is a member of the anti-terrorist coalition," Franks underlined.

He noted that the Russian military were the first to open a hospital in Kabul after the Taliban had been expelled from the city. "They helped us a lot", he added.

When asked about the purpose of his visit to Tajikistan, the American general said that he was going to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and future American-Tajik relations with President Emomali Rakhmonov.

According to Franks, President Rakhmonov was one of the first in the Central Asian region to offer help to American troops conducting the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan and allowed Americans to Tajik military bases. "Our nascent friendly relations with Rakhmonov are real friendship," Franks said.

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