Moscow, 13 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev today said Kyrgyzstan has signed a one-year agreement to lease a military base to Western forces fighting in Afghanistan. At the conclusion of his visit to Moscow, Akaev said Kyrgyzstan's Manas airstrip will be leased for one year, with an option for an extension. He said the lease is not conditional on any foreign aid.
But Akaev stressed the lease will only be extended after consultations with Russia and Kyrgyzstan's partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The comments come amid Russian fears that the United States may set up permanent military bases in the Central Asian nations near Russia's borders. There are currently around 500 U.S. and 200 French soldiers at the Manas air base near the capital Bishkek.