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Kyrgyzstan Begins Moves to Close US Airbase


Kyrgyzstan's government has asked parliament to approve the closure of a U.S. military air base that supplies U.S.-led troops fighting militants in Afghanistan.

Hours after a draft bill was submitted to the Kyrgyz parliament Wednesday, Moscow said it would be flexible to U.S. requests to route supplies across Russia.

The State Department has repeated that U.S. officials have not received any formal communication from Kyrgyzstan about their decision to close the base. Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters the United States is discussing the matter with Kyrgyzstan and will address the topic with Russia. He also said the Obama administration will do contingency planning if U.S. access to the base ends.

The Manas airbase is an important staging post for the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban.

On Tuesday, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said the base would be closed. He made the announcement shortly after the Central Asian nation secured $2 billion in loans and aid from Russia.

Kyrgyzstan has not said when the base might close, but the United States must be given 180 days notice under its deal with the Kyrgyz government.

The possibility of base closure poses a serious challenge to President Barack Obama's plan to send up to 30,000 more American forces into Afghanistan this year.

Relations between the United States and Kyrgyzstan were strained in 2006 when a U.S. soldier shot and killed a Kyrgyz civilian at a checkpoint.
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