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Kyrgyzstan Says U.S. Base Closure Is Final

U.S. military air base in Manas
BISHKEK (Reuters) -- Kyrgyzstan will not reverse its decision to close a U.S. military air base that was used by Washington for the war in Afghanistan, a spokesman for President Kurmanbek Bakiev has said.

Last month the Central Asian state's parliament swiftly backed Bakiev's decision -- announced in Moscow after he secured $2 billion in aid and loans from Russia -- to close the Manas air base 35 kilometers from the capital Bishkek.

But when Bakiev was asked by a BBC reporter on March 4, whether Kyrgyzstan could allow the U.S. troops to stay, he replied: "We are ready for any new proposals from the U.S. government aimed at stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan."

The audio recording of the interview was posted on the BBC's Russian news website.

Bakiev's spokesman said that the president did not mean that Kyrgyzstan would change its mind.

"The decision has been made, the [base] agreement has been cancelled by the parliament, but the doors are open for talks on the situation in Afghanistan," Bakiev's spokesman Almaz Turdumamatov said.

Bakiev's office later said in a statement that "although the last American soldier will leave Kyrgyzstan in August", the country was ready "to offer its territory for the transit of nonmilitary goods."

After the vote in parliament, Kyrgyzstan handed a formal notice to the U.S. Embassy last month giving the troops six months to leave the Manas air base.

Parliament's committees started voting on canceling the agreements on Manas with the other 11 members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. The final voting could be held on March 6.