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US soldiers return from Afghanistan to a US airbase 30km outside Bishkek, in Manas, on Feb 26 2009.
US soldiers return from Afghanistan to a US airbase 30km outside Bishkek, in Manas, on Feb 26 2009.

Kyrgyzstan expel US allies

The Kyrgyz parliament votes overwhelmingly to evict the remaining US allies from a base on its territory.

The Kyrgyz parliament voted overwhelmingly today to evict the remaining US allies from a base on its territory that serves as a key supply route for coalition forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. The parliament voted in favour of the bill, with 80 votes for, one against and one abstention, an AFP correspondent at parliament reported. Last month Kyrgyzstan voted to evict US forces from the airbase at Manas ? home to about 1,000 US military personnel and a small number of French and Spanish personnel ? but put off a decision on leases held by 11 other states.

"Now, the law regarding the 11 signatories must be signed by the president of Kyrgyzstan," Kyrgyz foreign minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev said. "After that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will inform the 11 countries, following which they will have 180 days to remove their military forces from the base." Although the vote advances the process of closing the base, Krygyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev said this week that his country was still open to negotiations on keeping the base open but under new conditions.

The Central Asian state ordered the closure last month in a move analysts described as linked to Russian opposition to US military moves in the region and a Russian offer of 2.3 billion dollars in aid and loans for Kyrgyzstan. The closure order came at a bad time for the United States and other Western nations using the base as President Barack Obama is stepping up operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Amid the uncertainty, US military officials have been holding talks with other Central Asian states that some commentators say could lead to Washington using their facilities instead. * AFP

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