Tuesday, November 1, 2011

U.S. Must Close Air Base: Kyrgyz President-Elect

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - The United States will have to shut down the base it currently uses in Kyrgyzstan for support operations in Afghanistan, the Central Asian republic's president-elect said on Nov. 1.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, who was elected president of the strategic nation by an overwhelming majority on Oct. 30, said the United States will have to leave the Manas base after its lease expires in 2014.
"Our country will honor all its international agreements, but we have warned the U.S. embassy that they will have to close the base in 2014," Atambayev told reporters.
The former Soviet republic is the world's only nation to house both a Russian and a U.S. military base, reflecting a recent rivalry between Moscow and Washington in the energy-rich but turbulent region.
Now officially called the Manas Transit Center, the base leased by the United States is located at a civilian airport on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.
NATO has mapped out a strategy to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Atambayev, whose victory may still be challenged by his opponents, said he did not believe such bases provided long-term security for Kyrgyzstan.
"We are ready to create civilian transit centers, but not military bases, with the U.S., Russia or any other interested country," he said.

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