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US Official: No Objection to New Russian Base in Kyrgyzstan

A senior U.S. diplomat visiting Kyrgyzstan says the United States does not have any objections to Russia possibly opening a second military base in the Central Asian country.

U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns told reporters Sunday in Bishkek that any such decision is Kyrgyzstan's sovereign right.

He also said the United States believes that "any step that strengthens the sovereignty, independence and security of Kyrgyzstan is a sensible one."

Reports from Kyrgyzstan's capital late last week said that Russian officials are seeking to open a second airbase in the country.

the reports quoting unnamed senior Kyrgyz officials came days after Kyrgyzstan approved a deal allowing the United States to continue using a key airbase for its military operations in Afghanistan.

In February, Kyrgyz authorities initially had given the Americans an eviction notice, but after U.S. officials agreed to more than triple the amount of rent paid to $60 million per year, the eviction notice was withdrawn.

The plan to terminate the U.S. airbase lease was viewed as evidence of Russia's influence, following Moscow's pledge to deliver a $2 billion aid and loan package to the Kyrgyz government.

Analysts say Russia and the United States are jockeying for influence in Central Asia and military bases in the region are important strategic assets in the rivalry.

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