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Russia May Expand Shipments of NATO Supplies to Afghanistan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia may expand cooperation in shipments of NATO supplies bound for international forces in Afghanistan.

Lavrov told reporters in Moscow Wednesday such cooperation will be possible when Russia and NATO fully normalize ties. NATO halted all military cooperation with Russia in response to its August invasion of Georgia.

Meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Patrick Moon has concluded two days of talks in Moscow with Russian officials on supply routes to Afghanistan where U.S. and NATO forces are battling the Taliban movement. A U.S. Embassy statement said the sides agreed to continue future consultations.

In another development, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said Wednesday his country's decision to close the U.S. base at Manas, outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, followed America's refusal to pay more for rent. The base currently supplies U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials repeatedly have expressed readiness to negotiate the issue of compensation for use of the base.

The decision to close the base also came shortly after Russia pledged to give Kyrgyzstan about $2 billion in loans and aid.

Moscow has said it will allow the United States to ferry non-military cargo bound for Afghanistan across its territory.