Kyrgyz interim government confirms U.S. base can stay

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, April 9, 2010
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Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, Roza Otunbayeva, confirmed Friday the United States could continue to operate its military transit center in the country.

"We have no intentions of dealing with the base now. We have more important priorities -- the lives of people and normalization in the republic and in Bishkek," Otunbayeva told reporters.

"So far, we are keeping all the existing understandings," she added.

Otunbayeva said one day earlier that the contract would not be affected for the moment by the regime change.

"Its status quo will remain in place," she said at a press conference, "Give us time and we will listen to all the sides and solve everything."

The base, at Manas international airport, is used to supply U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Head of the CIS Institute's Central Asia department Andrei Grozin told the Interfax news agency the interim government was unlikely to shut down the base soon, and it would probably give priority to enhancing relations with Moscow.

"It is possible to say that the new leadership of Kyrgyzstan has effectively been recognized by Moscow," he said.

Earlier on Friday, a delegation led by deputy prime minister Almazbek Atambayev of the Kyrgyz interim government arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian officials on economic issues.

They would probably discuss export duties on Russian petroleum products, said Russian parliament member Anton Belyakov.

Kyrgyz opposition parties claimed to have formed an interim coalition government on Thursday, while President Kurmanbek Bakiyev refused to step down after clashes that left at least 76 people dead and 1,520 others injured.

The opposition has previously said it wants to close the Manas base. It handles almost all U.S. personnel going into or out of Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon said Thursday that unrest in Kyrgyzstan didn't affect the base.

Last year, the Kyrgyz parliament voted against the U.S. and NATO presence at the air base but the U.S. was able to renogiate its continued presence. At that time, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the base was important to the U.S. transportation effort, "but not essential."

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