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US doubts curtain down on Kyrgyz base

File photo: A KC-135 Stratotanker at the Manas Air Force Base, Kyrgyzstan.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 6, 2009
The United States voiced doubt Friday that Kyrgyzstan had taken a final decision to close a US air base used for the war in Afghanistan, saying Washington had received no official word of its closure.

Kyrgyz officials have told AFP and other media that a final decision has been taken to close the Manas base outside the capital Bishkek.

"But we have not received our official notification about the status or the disposition of the Manas base," according to Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman.

"We proceed with our operations in Manas today, and we will continue to do so as we try to continue our discussions with the Kyrgyz government about our presence there," Duguid said.

In any case, US officials said, it would take six months to shut down operations after the order was sent to close the base.

Duguid said he did not know when the "last communication was" made between the US and Kyrgyz governments, which are communicating through their respective embassies.

In Bishkek, government spokesman Aibek Sultangaziev said the closure decision was final and national security chief Adakhan Madumarov said the Kyrgyz authorities are not engaged in negotiations with the US over its future.

However, a State Department official who asked not to be named suggested negotiations were continuing.

"We made an offer to them in our discussions, haven't heard back from that offer yet," the official added.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev first announced the closure in Moscow on Tuesday, fueling speculation the decision came under pressure from Russia, which has been irritated by the US presence in ex-Soviet territory.

The White House said Thursday it would work with the government of Kyrgyzstan to "remedy" its decision to close the base.

The base closure would strain US supply lines at a time when President Barack Obama is preparing to nearly double the 36,000-strong force in the country and amid increasing attacks on supply routes through Pakistan.

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Tajikistan ready to help US with Afghanistan supplies
Dushanbe (AFP) Feb 6, 2009
Tajikistan said Friday it was ready to allow US and NATO supplies for Afghanistan to transit its territory, after neighbouring Kyrgyzstan ordered the closure of a vital American airbase.

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