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Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev (right) with Prime Minister Feliks Kulov (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
BISHKEK, September 11, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan's President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Prime Minister Feliks Kulov and Parliament Speaker Marat Sultanov today commemorated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by visiting the U.S. military air base at Manas, near Bishkek.
The Manas air base was set up nearly five years ago as part of the U.S.-led war on terror in nearby Afghanistan. Following a bitter price dispute, the Kyrgyz government agreed in July to prolong the lease of the facilities to the Pentagon.
Bakiev told reporters that, although the situation in Afghanistan "has improved a lot," he believes the air base is still needed to help ensure stability in the region.
Bakiev also justified ongoing security operations in southern Kyrgyzstan, saying governments in the region must remain vigilant and ready to fight "international terrorism."
Kyrgyzstan's security forces have recently killed several people in the south of the country, including a prominent ethnic Uzbek imam who had allowed members of a banned religious group to pray at his mosque.
The killing of Muhammadrafiq Kamoluddin, and the subsequent deportation of Uzbek refugees wanted in their home country on terror charges that rights activists say are fabricated, triggered outrage in Kyrgyzstan.