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Kyrgyz Politician Says U.S. Forces Might Stay At Manas

U.S. servicemen board a plane at Manas
BISHKEK -- The leader of the Social Democratic faction in the Kyrgyz parliament says that U.S. forces will most likely remain at the Manas air base, despite a government decision to close it.

Bakyt Beshimov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that the issue of the air base's future will be discussed soon in U.S.-Russian talks. Beshimov said the major reason that the Kyrgyz parliament postponed debate on closing the base was so that Moscow and Washington would have time to discuss the issue.

Beshimov expressed regret that Kyrgyzstan has lost its role as an independent state in deciding on the base's status.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev announced earlier this month after meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev that the U.S. air base would be shut down.

The Manas air base has been in operation since 2001 to assist U.S.-led antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan.