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Kyrgyz ruling party votes to shut US airbase

Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
by Staff Writers
Bishkek (AFP) Feb 18, 2009
Kyrgyzstan's ruling party on Wednesday approved a government decision to shut a key US airbase, a day ahead of a parliament vote to seal the fate of the key supply route to Afghanistan.

The vote by the Ak Zhol party means it is virtually assured that parliament will give its final approval to closure of the Manas airbase, which has gravely disappointed the United States, when it votes on Thursday.

Ak Zhol, the party of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, unanimously approved the bill in a party session, an AFP correspondent who was present reported. The party has 71 seats in the 90-seat legislature.

Of the minority parties in parliament, the Communist Party also voted to annul the agreement with the United States which allows its troops to use the air base. However the Social Democrats did not vote owing to disagreements.

Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev said that the respective embassies of the United States and Kyrgyzstan were working "daily" to discuss the airbase through diplomatic channels.

"But not one suggestion has come from the American side, not one thing has been announced," the foreign minister complained.

Bakiyev has said Kyrgyzstan is closing the base because the United States refused to pay fair market prices for its use.

The announcement of the closure came after Russia offered more than two billion dollars in aid. But the government has insisted that Moscow did not set the closure of Manas as a condition for the aid.

The Manas base, operated by about 1,000 troops including small French and Spanish contingents, was set up to support coalition forces fighting to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The closure of the base would strain US supply lines at a time when President Barack Obama is preparing to nearly double the 36,000-strong force in Afghanistan.

Since the announcement by Bishkek, both Russia and Tajikistan have offered their territory for the transit of non-lethal supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan.

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NATO concerned at Pakistan's deal with militants
Brussels (AFP) Feb 17, 2009
NATO on Tuesday voiced concern at a deal signed by Pakistan with Islamic hardliners recognising the rule of sharia law in the northwest Swat valley bordering Afghanistan.

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