DUSHANBE, March 28, Asia-Plus -- U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, Jr. who was in Dushanbe to attend the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA V) yesterday evening give a news conference.

On the demarche of the U.S. delegation during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speech, Mr. Blake noted, “We were disappointed by the statement of Iranian President Ahmadinejad at the conference RECCA-V in Dushanbe, which was aimed at regional integration.  He used this opportunity to criticize the United States, to make unsubstantiated claims that call into question our policy.  So we decided to leave the hall during his speech.”

We will recall that addressing the conference on March 26, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed U.S. policy in Afghanistan as the source of all the country''s problems.  Iranian president’s remarks prompted the U.S. delegation to walk out of the meeting.

On the use of the “Manas” in Kyrgyzstan by the U.S. army, the U.S. official noted that they were grateful to President of Kyrgyzstan Atambayev for what he has agreed to extend the contract on the use of “Manas” by the U.S. Army until mid-2014.  “Kyrgyzstan continues to support the Transit Center “Manas” to send the goods to coalition forces in Afghanistan.  We intend to continue negotiations with the Government of Kyrgyzstan, and hope that they will be productive,” Mr. Blake said, adding that U.S. is not going to open military bases in other countries in the region.

On the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Blake said United States began withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan.  According to him, part of the units will pass through the Northern Distribution Network through the territory of Central Asia.  He confirmed that some states in the region have expressed interest in purchasing American gear and equipment.  “All of our military attaches in the region, which is responsible for coordination and cooperation, discuss the matter with his colleagues,” said U.S. official.  “However, we have limitations, not all material and equipment may be transferred to interested countries.  We are ready to discuss this issue under the laws of the United States.”

Asked about future negotiations on Iran, Mr. Blake noted that U.S. President Obama recently met in Seoul with the leaders of China and Russia and discussed with them, as well as other partners in the context of security threats from Iran’s nuclear program.  “We and our partners have agreed that negotiations in the 5 +1 format (“group of six” of international mediators, which includes Russia, China, USA, France, Britain and Germany) should soon begin,” he noted.

The U.S. and other Western countries accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons under the guise of peaceful nuclear energy program. Tehran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is really aimed solely at using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

“EU countries are making great efforts to resume negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and we intend to determine the exact date of their conduct,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.  “We also have time for a diplomatic solution, but this time coming to an end.”

He also said that U.S. calls on countries in the region to support sanctions against Iran in Washington and refuse to trade and other relations with this country, in order to put pressure on Tehran to show solidarity with the international community over concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

On the cooperation in the fight against drugs, Mr. Blake said, “We must work together to counter the drug threat coming from Afghanistan, because drugs fuel the financial terrorists, including the Taliban.  We are working productively with many countries in Central Asia through various projects in order to stop drug trafficking.  One of the most successful examples is cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan.  We would also like to work with Russia in this direction in Central Asia.”