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Kyrgyzstan President Insists On Summer 2014 Deadline To Close U.S. Military Base

The new pro-Russian Kyrgyzstan President has given a deadline of summer 2014 for the closure of a U.S. military base in the Central Asian country.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev made it clear at a meeting on Monday with visiting U.S. delegation led by Assistant Deputy Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Susan Elliott that the United States must withdraw all its troops from the Manas airbase in capital Bishkek at the expiry of the current lease agreement.

Kyrgyz presidential press service quoted Atambayev as saying that the future cooperation with the U.S. will be built around his country's national interests, and democratic development will serve as a factor in strengthening bilateral relations.

The US official expressed gratitude to the Kyrgyz Republic for allowing the use of the key Transit Center - a logistics hub for Afghanistan - for the past decade.

The Manas base, set up after the 9/11 attacks, has been the only U.S. military base in the region. Around 1,200 servicemen deployed there are engaged in the maintenance of warplanes and fueling of transport aircraft.

It is also used for the transit of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan.

The interim government that came into power after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's ouster had agreed in April 2010 to extend the lease of Manas air force base for another year.

The lease agreement was extended after Washington agreed to the host country's several demands, including more than tripling the annual rent for the air base.

The impoverished mountainous former Soviet republic is home to both U.S. and Russian air bases because of its proximity to Afghanistan and western China.

Atambayev won the presidential election with an overwhelming majority in November.

He has a reputation for pragmatism and support for close relations with Kyrgyzstan's powerful neighbors China and Russia. Both the governments are keen to bring Kyrgyzstan into a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Kyrgyzstan had seen widespread inter-ethnic fighting in 2010 in the wake of the ousting of authoritarian President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Constitutional changes put into effect after Bakiyev fled the country made Kyrgyzstan Central Asia's only functional democracy.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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