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US, Kyrgyzstan Reach Deal on Continued Use of Manas Air Base

The United States and Kyrgyzstan have reached a deal on the continued use of a Kyrgyz air base to transport supplies for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

The news comes four months after Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted to evict U.S. troops from the Manas air base near the country's border with Kazakhstan.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev noted that the operation will aid the NATO effort in Afghanistan to the south.

Sarbayev said the government of Kyrgyzstan decided to hold talks and to sign an agreement creating a transit center at Manas airport that would support the operations of the international force in Afghanistan.

The deal falls short of U.S. hopes of maintaining the facility as a full-fledged air base. The United States will be able to use the airstrip to transport only non-military supplies to Afghanistan.

In February, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev called for the base's closure after Russia agreed to give the impoverished country more than $2 billion in loans and aid. Mr. Bakiev denies any connection between the events.

Kyrgz Foreign Minister Sarbayev says the original decision to end U.S. use of the base was an economic one.

Sarbayev said there is a big economic issue in the new agreement as the rent for use of the airbase was $17.5 million a year, and he said now it is $60 million per year going to the Kyrgyz government.

In addition, Sarbayev says the U.S. has agreed to pay at least $36 million for airport improvements, $30 million for new navigational equipment and more than $40 million for economic development and anti-drug trafficking measures.

Some 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo are transported through the base each month. It is also used to refuel military planes. The new proposal still has to be approved by the full Kyrgyzstan parliament.

Many analysts say that denying the United States use of he Manas air base would have hampered U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to support thousands more troops in Afghanistan.