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Karzai Asks Kyrgyzstan to Reconsider Closing Airbase to US

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is urging Kyrgyzstan to let the U.S. keep using an air base that supports American and NATO troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Kyrgyz government told the United States to vacate the Manas base in February. But a senior Kyrgyz official said Saturday that Mr. Karzai sent a letter to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, asking him to reconsider.

The official (Maksim Kaganer) says the Afghan leader warned that the Manas air base is critical to defeating terrorists in his country and that any failure would have broader consequences.

Kyrgyz officials also say Mr. Karzai and Mr. Bakiyev could meet at an upcoming regional summit in Russia.

Several months ago, Kyrgyzstan gave the United States six months to vacate the base after Russia pledged to give Kyrgyzstan about $2 billion in loans and aid.

In April, Russia announced plans to increase the number of its aircraft at another base in Kyrgyzstan, just 30 kilometers from the Manas base.

Kyrgyz President Bakiyev had complained that Washington was not paying enough rent for using the Manas base.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.