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Report: Uzbekistan has yet to grant use of airspace

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (CNN) -- Uzbek President Islam Karimov denied reports this week that his country had pledged to allow the U.S. Air Force to use its territory and airspace for strikes against bases of Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, according to the Interfax news agency.

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U.S. officials, including President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, have identified bin Laden as the prime suspect in last Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bin Laden is said to be living in Afghanistan as a "guest" of that nation's ruling Taliban regime.

The attacks have spurred the formation of an international coalition against terrorism, with several nations promising to support the United States.

Karimov said that if the U.S. investigation proves that terrorists plotted the attacks in Afghanistan, then "retribution must be meted out," Interfax reported Wednesday. But he stopped short of saying that his country has decided to allow U.S. forces to use Uzbek airspace and territory for possible strikes.

"We have not made commitments to make our territory and airspace available," Karimov said.

The Uzbek president said Afghanistan is an environment for training "terrorists of all sorts, where the most perfect bases for training terrorists for all countries are located," according to Interfax. "The U.S. proposes that all efforts be consolidated to fight these centers. We are prepared for and open to discussing a joint war on terrorism."

Turkmenistan, which borders Afghanistan on the northwest, said Wednesday that it has not received any official inquiries of appeals from other countries to let its territory be used for combating international terrorism, according to a Turkmenistan Foreign Ministry statement reported by Interfax.

"Some media have been carrying various insinuations to this end lately," that statement said, according to Interfax. "Such reports are idle inventions and have no grounds whatsoever.

"The neutral status of Turkmenistan recognized by the United Nations and the international commitments undertaken by the republic prompt its actions on the international arena in strict accordance with the U.N. Charter," the statement says.

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