Kyrgyzstan set to approve US air base closure

Kyrgyzstan's parliament was set to approve a government proposal to close a U.S. air base.

Kyrgyzstan set to approve US air base closure
Kyrgyzstan's parliament was set to approve a government proposal on Thursday to close a U.S. air base.

The closing of Manas, the last remaining U.S. air base in Central Asia, poses a challenge to new U.S. President Barack Obama's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan for NATO and U.S. military efforts.

It also comes at a time of heightened rivalry between Moscow and Washington for control of Central Asia, a vast former Soviet region still seen by Russia as part of its traditional sphere of interest.

Kyrgyzstan's parliament is all but certain to approve the closure of the base during Thursday's vote.

"I fully support this decision. The president has voiced his opinion very firmly," Alisher Sabirov, a deputy from the ruling Ak Zhol party, said in a speech to parliament.

"We have enough convincing evidence that the agreement with the United States should be cancelled. Our friends are not those who are stronger than us, but those who support us."

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to parliament and delivered a speech after overseeing a ceremony of new government members being sworn in. But he made no mention of the base issue.

Bakiyev announced the closure plans this month after accepting more than $2 billion in aid and credit from traditional ally Russia. He has accused Washington of refusing to pay more rent for use of the base.

"We are definitely voting to close the base. We do not need other countries' military bases here. We have always called for strategic cooperation with Russia," Communist party deputy Iskhak Masaliyev said, addressing the chamber.

Russia has an air base of its own in Kyrgyzstan, located in Kant just a few dozens kilometres away from Manas.

Reuters
Last Mod: 19 Şubat 2009, 11:15
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