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Rice on delicate diplomatic mission in Central Asia

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Rice on delicate diplomatic mission in Central Asia

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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Kyrgyzstan at the start of a four-nation tour to a part of the world where both Washington and Moscow are seen as vying for influence.

She will later travel to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan in a region that is a vital launch pad for the US campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a country she will also visit. Rice addressed troops at a United States airbase near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Their long-term military future there is unclear after an alliance of Central Asian States – including Kyrgyzstan – called on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal. After a period of turbulent political upheaval, the former Soviet republic remains unstable. Condoleezza Rice may also add another country to her tour schedule – earthquake-hit Pakistan. She is keen to show solidarity with a key US ally.