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U.S. Says It's Not Closing Its Military Base In Kyrgyzstan


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets with U.S. Air Force officials at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan last month.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets with U.S. Air Force officials at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan last month.

DUSHANBE (Reuters) -- The United States has no plans to close its military airbase in Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. regional military chief has said.

A source close to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev's office told Reuters on January 13 that the Central Asian state was preparing a statement announcing the closure of the base, a key U.S. staging post for its operations in nearby Afghanistan.

U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus, visiting Tajikistan as part of a regional tour that also takes him to Kyrgyzstan this weekend, said the United States had no plans to stop using the airbase.

"We look forward to discussing the future of the base there and we certainly have no plans to change anything, frankly," he told reporters.

Washington set up the base, now home to more than 1,000 military personnel, in ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan in 2001 after the start of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

Russia, which also operates a military airbase in Kyrgyzstan, saw the arrival of U.S. forces as a Washington attempt to squeeze Russian influence in the ex-Soviet region.

Russian media have separately reported that Bakiev would announce the closure of the U.S. base ahead of his planned visit to Moscow next month. The Kyrgyz government has not officially commented on the matter.
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