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Kyrgyzstan Orders U.S. To Close Air Base

The Manas air base is a key supply point for operations in Afghanistan

The Manas air base is a key supply point for operations in Afghanistan

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev says the United States must close the military base in Kyrgyzstan that it uses as a key supply route for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"Kyrgyzstan will close the U.S. military base in Manas after Washington refused to negotiate better compensation," Bakiev said after talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.

A spokesman for the Pentagon later said the United States hopes to continue using the air base, despite the threats to close it.

"We are hopeful that we can continue our good relationship with the Kyrgyz government, and can continue to use Manas in support of our operations in Afghanistan," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. "It is hugely important air base for us."

Washington set up the base in 2001 after the start of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. But its role has been heightened as the United States seeks to reinforce supply routes to Afghanistan that bypass Pakistan, where supply convoys face security risks.

Bakiev made his statement after receiving a promise of more than $2 billion in credit and aid from Russia to assist his impoverished country.

Medvedev said that despite Kyrgyzstan's decision, both countries will continue to cooperate with the United States on its antiterror efforts in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Manas air base is currently home to more than 1,000 military personnel.