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Kyrgyz Threaten To Expel U.S. Troops

The air field at Manas, which houses the Ganci facilities (file photo) (RFE/RL) BISHKEK, April 19, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev is threatening to expel U.S. troops from the country unless Washington pays more for the right to use an air base near the capital, Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

Kyrgyz officials have expressed their desire to hike payments in connection with the facility before, and some governments in the region have hinted that they would like to see a timetable for the departure of U.S. troops in Central Asia.

Bakiev made his latest remarks about the Ganci air base -- used since late 2001 to assist U.S.-led operations in neighboring Afghanistan -- in a nationally televised interview today.

"Kyrgyzstan retains the right to consider the possibility of terminating the bilateral agreement signed on December 4, 2001, if circumstances mean we are unable to finish the negotiation process by June 1, 2006," he said.

Bakiev was quoted in February as saying the United States should pay more than $200 million for use of the Ganci facilities at Manas Airport. He said the United States now pays $2 million a year.

In June 2005, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- demanded that Washington set a deadline to end the U.S. military presence in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan evicted U.S. troops from its territory late last year.

(with additional agency reporting)