FEBRUARY 24 2012 19:29h

Medvedev: Central Asia stability important

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MOSCOW, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Stability in Central Asian countries, considering the pressure in the region and the Middle East, is important to Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev said.

Medvedev, meeting in Moscow Friday with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, said developments in Syria and Iran "have a direct influence on the situation" in Central Asia and Russia must work with its partners to ensure stability, RIA Novosti reported.

The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is under pressure from Western leaders, human-rights groups and non-governmental organizations to end its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Western leaders say they think Iran's nuclear program is to develop nuclear weapons.

Medvedev said he and Atambayev also discuss economic cooperation between Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Atambayev said before making his first official visit to Russia he would ask Russia to pay its debt for leasing Kyrgyz military facilities, RIA Novosti said. The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry indicated Russia owed $15 million.

Kyrgyzstan also leases a military base near the capital of Bishkek to the United States, which pays its $150 million lease every year without any delays, Kyrgyz media said.

Kyrgyzstan is the only country that hosts both Russian and U.S. military bases.