Kyrgyzstan: US air base closure decision 'final'

Kyrgyz PM says Kyrgyzstan wants to shut the base because it disagrees with U.S. methods in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan: US air base closure decision 'final'

Kyrgyzstan said on Friday its decision to shut a U.S. air base was final.

On Thursday, the United States said it was still in talks with Kyrgyzstan about keeping the Manas base in the mainly Muslim, former Soviet republic and traditional Russian ally.

"The decision has been made," said Kyrgyz government spokesman Aibek Sultangaziyev. "The U.S. embassy and the (Kyrgyz) Foreign Ministry are exchanging opinions on this, but there are no discussions on keeping the base."

Kyrgyzstan's stance has set a tough challenge for new U.S. President Barack Obama, who plans to send additional troops to Afghanistan to boost foriegn troops.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the closure of the base earlier this week after securing more than $2 billion in financial aid and credit from Russia during talks in Moscow.

Russian position

Russia, irked by the U.S. military presence in Kyrgyzstan which it regards as part of its strategic sphere of interest, has long exerted pressure on the small, landlocked and mountainous Central Asian country to evict the U.S. forces.

Moscow, which operates its own military base in Kyrgyzstan, has strongly denied any link between its aid package and the move to shut Manas.

Asked if Washington had made any additional offers over the base, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov said: "We have not received any proposals." He says Kyrgyzstan wants to shut the base because it disagrees with U.S. methods in Afghanistan.

The Kyrgyz government needs parliamentary approval to proceed with the closure, but this is seen as a formality as the chamber is controlled by a pro-presidential party. A simple majority of votes is needed.

Officials have said parliament will vote next week.

The Russian aid package, due to be approved by parliament on Friday, includes a $1.7 billion discounted loan to help Kyrgyzstan build a hydroelectric power plant.

A Western diplomatic source said on Thursday the United States was close to a deal with Kyrgyzstan's neighbour Uzbekistan that would allow Washington to open a new supply route for its troops in Afghanistan.

Russia, while blowing cold on the U.S. military presence in Central Asia, has politically backed the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Moscow says it will be flexible to U.S. requests for supplies to be allowed to cross its territory.

Reuters

Last Mod: 06 Şubat 2009, 14:03
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