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Kyrgyz Vote Due On U.S. Base Closure

U.S. troops board at Manas on February 12
Kyrgyzstan's parliament has scheduled a vote on a bill ordering the closure of an air base used by the United States to help supply U.S. forces in Afghanistan for February 19.

Reports say the measure is expected to be approved by a parliament dominated by the party of President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who announced his plan to shut down the base during a recent trip to Moscow.

Opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan have opposed Bakiev's initiative, and had suggested that parliamentary debate was being delayed so that Moscow and Washington could discuss the issue.

If the bill is approved, the United States would reportedly have to leave the Manas air base within 180 days.

Manas has provided crucial support to operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

In the initial stages of the military campaign in Afghanistan, the United States used a base in Uzbekistan but was evicted as relations cooled between Washington and Tashkent.

General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, was in Uzbekistan for talks with President Islam Karimov on February 17.

The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent said Petraeus had planned to discuss cooperation on Afghanistan, although no details have emerged.

compiled from wire reports