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U.S. Defense Secretary Meets With Kyrgyz Leaders

President Bakiev (left) greets Gates today in Bishkek (official site) BISHKEK, June 5, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussed bilateral military cooperation with Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev in Bishkek today, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

Gates met with Defense Minister Ismail Isakov this morning.

Speaking at a press conference after talks with Isakov, Gates said the two sides discussed military cooperation as well as "opportunities for expanding the nonmilitary side" of U.S.-Kyrgyz relations.

Discussing the use of part of Bishkek's Manas airport by U.S.-led forces operating in Afghanistan, Gates said: "What is important for the people of Kyrgyzstan to understand is that our use of Manas is in support of a larger war on terror, in which Kyrgyzstan is an ally of virtually every other nation on Earth. We are all working to try and prevent a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and our use of Manas is one way in which Kyrgyzstan can play a very important and constructive role."

The U.S. military has been permitted by Kyrgyzstan's government to use the Manas airport near Bishkek as a base, and some 1,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed there to support operations in Afghanistan.