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Kyrgyz Parliament Votes to Close US Military Base 


The Kyrgyz parliament has voted to evict U.S. forces from Manas Air Base, a key supply point for Western forces fighting in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers voted 78 to one Thursday to back President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's decision to end U.S. access to the base. Mr. Bakiyev's Ak Zhol party dominates the assembly.

Kyrgyz officials say if the president signs the bill and the government issues an eviction notice, the United States will have to leave the base within 180 days.

The Manas Air Base is the only base in the region open to U.S. forces, and plays a key logistical role in supplying and reinforcing U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman says U.S. officials are still considering what they could "offer the Kyrgyz government" to persuade it to allow U.S. forces to stay. But the spokesman adds the officials are "not prepared to stay at any price" and continue to look at other options.

State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said Washington is aware of the vote, but has not received formal notice from the Kyrgyz government. He said U.S. officials will "carefully weigh all options" regarding their forces in Central Asia.

After the Kyrgyz president declared he would close the base, U.S. officials got permission from Russia and Kazakhstan to send non-lethal supplies for Afghanistan by rail. Mr. Bakiyev made the announcement about the base after accepting more than $2 billion in Russian aid.

Most U.S. and NATO shipments into Afghanistan have been arriving by road through Pakistan, but those convoys have increasingly come under attack from Taliban and al-Qaida militants in recent months. Washington has been seeking to open alternative supply routes through Central Asia.

U.S. President Barack Obama has also pledged to increase U.S. forces' strength in Afghanistan by 30,000 troops.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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