MOSCOW (AP) _ The commander of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan praised Russia for its help in the campaign but indicated Wednesday he believes Moscow's contribution is unlikely for now to go beyond humanitarian assistance.
Gen. Tommy Franks arrived in Moscow on Tuesday and met immediately with officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry. He held talks Wednesday at the Ministry of Emergency Situations, which has coordinated Russia's humanitarian relief operations in Afghanistan.
Franks' mission appeared to be part of a U.S. attempt to reach out to Russians, many of whom are skeptical about the United States' expanding presence in former Soviet republics in which Russia still considers itself to be the dominant power.
``In my meetings here in Moscow up to this point, I've been very much impressed with the fact that the Russian government remains a vital part of this coalition,'' Franks said at a news conference.
Franks noted that Russia now has liaison officers in the Tampa, Fla., headquarters of the U.S. Central Command. He said Moscow's contribution to the anti-terror campaign included putting up a hospital in Afghanistan, clearing a vital tunnel and granting prompt clearance for the overflight of Russian territory by U.S. planes.
``This has also been of great assistance to our operations in Afghanistan,'' Franks said.
Asked whether Russia would go beyond humanitarian assistance, Franks said: ``My impression has been is that there has indeed been a great deal of cooperation, and so I applaud the cooperation and I expect that that cooperation will continue.''
Russia has said it would not participate in military operations inside Afghanistan.