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Tajikistan To Allow Nonmilitary NATO Cargo For Afghanistan

DUSHANBE (Reuters) -- Tajikistan has agreed to allow the transit of NATO nonmilitary cargo through its territory to Afghanistan, a U.S. military commander has said on Tajik state television.

"Tajikistan has allowed [NATO] to use its railways and roads to transit non-military goods to Afghanistan," said Rear Admiral Mark Harnitchek of the U.S. Transportation Command.

The announcement comes amid reports that Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed a bill approved by lawmakers on February 19 to evict U.S. forces from a key air base near Bishkek to supply operations in Afghanistan.

The president's signature reportedly clears the way for an eviction notice to the U.S. military, although U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested during a NATO meeting in Poland that the U.S. is still negotiating for continued use of the facility.

Reports suggest Washington is examining other possible supply routes, including talks with neighboring Uzbekistan for the possible use of a base there.

U.S. and NATO officials have expressed particular concern over Russia's presumed role in encouraging the Kyrgyz move, which was announced by Bakiev during a visit to Moscow that included a Kremlin promise of billions of dollars in aid.

with additional RFE/RL and wire reports