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Petraeus Says Kyrgyzstan Not Planning To Close U.S. Air Base

U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus in Bishkek
U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus in Bishkek
BISHKEK -- U.S. Army General David Petraeus has said in Bishkek that Kyrgyz officials denied they have plans to ask the U.S. military to leave the Manas air base, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Petraeus, who heads U.S. Central Command, says that on the contrary, a new U.S. delegation will come to Bishkek in February to discuss the further continuation of U.S. activities at the air base.

Petraeus added that the $63 million that the United States pays Kyrgyzstan annually for use of the air base outside the Kyrgyz capital may be increased during the negotiations.

Russian media reported last week that Kyrgyz officials were preparing to ask U.S. officials to close the air base ahead of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev's upcoming visit to Moscow.

Petraeus met with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov, Defense Minister Bakyt Kalyev, and other security officials.

Petraeus has been touring Central Asian states as he prepares a strategy report on Afghanistan to be issued in February, and has been seeking new supply routes to Afghanistan that avoid Pakistan.