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U.S. Defense Secretary Meets With Kyrgyz Leaders

Donald Rumsfeld (file photo) 14 April 2005 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today backed Kyrgyzstan's new leaders and received assurances that U.S. forces will be able to continue using an air base that supports U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan's acting president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, gave those assurances to Rumsfeld during talks in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

However, Bakiev said that Kyrgyzstan does not intend to serve as a base for U.S. AWACS surveillance aircraft or additional foreign military troops.

Following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, the Kyrgyz government agreed to allow U.S. forces to use the Ganci air base at Manas airport outside Bishkek, mainly for support operations in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld said Washington backs Kyrgyzstan's new leadership in its efforts at building a stable democracy.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service/Interfax/Reuters/AP)