Kyrgyzstan's president accused the United States on Wednesday of refusing to heed repeated calls to pay more rent for its air base in his country but did not say if he would welcome a fresh U.S. offer.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said last week he would evict U.S. forces from Manas, an important staging post for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan. He made the announcement in Moscow after securing more than $2 billion in Russian aid and credit.
The impoverished former Soviet republic has yet to say when the base would be officially shut, leading some observers to suggest it may still reverse the decision.
In his first public address since his Moscow trip, Bakiyev said he had long appealed on Washington to raise the rent to help his impoverished state cope with difficult economic times.
"We have no political disagreements with the United States. It's all about the financial element of the question," he told reporters at his official residence outside the capital Bishkek.
"Over the last three years I have personally raised this question with (top U.S. officials). I have always said to them: 'We have to review the terms of our agreement. Prices have changed and Kyrgyzstan is in a difficult financial situation'.
"And they always replied: 'Okay, Okay, Okay, Okay." They repeated that for years. But how long can one wait? We are a sovereign nation. We must have some respect for ourselves."
Bakiyev's office, however, has said the decision is final.
The U.S. government pays $17.4 million a year for use of the base. Its total assistance to Kyrgyzstan is $150 million a year.
The United States embassy in Bishkek said it was not authorised to comment on matters surrounding the base. Officials in Washington were not immediately available for comment.
At Wednesday's news conference, during which Western media were not allowed to ask questions, Bakiyev steered clear of any specifics on the future of the U.S. air base.
"I do not think our relations with the West would deteriorate," he said without elaborating.
Closing Manas would pose a problem for new U.S. President Barack Obama who plans to send additional troops to Afghanistan to boost its invasion in Afghan territory.
Last Mod: 12 Şubat 2009, 11:10