Sat, Feb 07, 2009 - Page 5 News List

US base decision ‘final’: Kyrgystan

‘NO DISCUSSION’: While the US said it was in talks with the Kyrgyz government to keep a vital link in its war in Afghanistan, Bishkek insisted the base would be closed

AGENCIES , BISHKEK

The Kyrgyzstan government’s decision to order the closure of a US base that serves as a vital route for supplies to Afghanistan is “final,” a government spokesman said yeterday.

“The government of Kyrgyzstan has taken its final decision about the closure of the American airbase,” government spokesman Aibek Sultangaziev told reporters. “The issue is now with parliament which must cancel the agreement on the base with the United States. The Kyrgyz foreign ministry is exchanging views with the US embassy on the time-frame for the base’s closure.”

The US said it was still in talks with Kyrgyzstan about keeping the Manas base in the impoverished former Soviet republic and traditional Russian ally.

“The decision has been made,” Sultangaziyev said. “The US 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 US President Barack Obama, who plans to send additional troops to Afghanistan to try and boost NATO efforts to defeat Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents.

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

The announcement left the US scrambling to find alternative supply routes through other parts of Central Asia for shipments bound for landlocked Afghanistan.

Speaking in Tajikistan, another ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia, the US envoy to Dushanbe said Tajikistan had agreed to offer its airspace for transport of non-military NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

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