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Kyrgyz Parliament Gives First Nod To Closing U.S. Base


Part of the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan

Part of the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK -- A Kyrgyz parliamentary committee has given first approval to a plan to close the Manas U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan.

The cabinet submitted the bill to parliament last week after President Kurmanbek Bakiev announced the Manas base would be closed.

The approval of the measure by the Security and Defense Committee appears to lessen the chances of a reversal.

Opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev, the head of the Ata Meken (Fatherland) Socialist Party, told RFE/RL after the vote that the decision to close down the base has hurt Kyrgyzstan's credibility.

"The [Kyrgyz parliament's Security and Defense Committee] has done its job. This is a political decision. The Americans and other foreign [partners] are saying that they will negotiate with Russia in order to keep [the Manas] air base," Tekebaev says.

"Here, we have bargained in the style of the Osh market, damaging our reputation as a state. This [decision] is a blow to Kyrgyzstan's reputation," Tekebaev added.

In a next step toward final approval, the draft law is expected to be considered by the opposition Social Democratic Party's parliament group on February 11.

Bakiev announced the closure after securing a pledge of more than $2 billion in aid and loans from Russia.

The United States began using the Manas base shortly after it launched operations against Afghanistan following the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

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