Astana/Moscow (dpa) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
praised Kazakhstan for its involvement in the Iraq war, during a visit to the
strategically important central Asian nation on Sunday, dpa reported.
Washington feels "deep gratitude" for the deployment of Kazakh mine-clearing troops following the fall of the Saddam regime in Iraq, Rice said in the capital, according to reports by the Interfax news agency. In Afghanistan the Kazakhs had also "helped greatly", she added.
Rice said was in Kazakhstan, which used to be part of the Soviet Union, to build a "good and strong" relationship, particularly over energy cooperation.
Kazakhstan, which Russia considers to be part of its sphere of influence, is a major oil and gas supplier and a potential partner for European countries eager to lessen their reliance on Moscow.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tashkin said that "I should underline that our relationship with the United States has stable, strategic character," while stressing that it was not at the expense of relations with Russia.