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US Hails Kyrgyz Election as Step Toward Stability

The United States is reacting positively to the presidential election in

Kyrgyz woman casts her ballot at a polling station the village of Gornaya Mayevka
, which acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev won in a landslide.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey hailed the electoral victory of Kyrgyz president-elect Kurmanbek Bakiyev. "We congratulate him and the Kyrgyz people on the election, which we believe marked a significant step toward long-term stability through democracy, via the Kyrgyz people's selection of a legitimate president and a democratic election," he said.

The U.S. spokesman said Sunday's elections represented what he called a "marked improvement" over parliamentary elections earlier this year. Those elections set off a wave of protests that peaked in March. Demonstrators stormed the presidential administration building, and forced then-president Askar Akayev to flee.

Meanwhile, at a news conference in Bishkek, Mr. Bakiyev said his government will re-examine the presence of a U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan. His comments echo a recent call by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group comprising Russia, China and former Soviet republics in central Asia, which said the United States should set a date for the withdrawal of its bases in Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Uzbekistan.

In response to a question on this issue, the State Department spokesman expressed Washington's appreciation to the two Central Asian nations. "We're appreciative of the cooperation we have received from a number of countries in the region, including Kyrgyzstan, in terms of support for the U.S. military and military operations that are done in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan," he said.

He said the State Department has noted the Kyrgyz president-elect's comments, but said he had no specific comments on future U.S. basing arrangements.