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Kyrgyzstan wants to settle all issues over U.S. airbase - FM

RIA Novosti

15/03/2007 16:11 BISHKEK, March 15 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan does not plan to revise the conditions of its U.S. airbase lease deal, but will insist that all issues related to the presence of U.S. military personnel in the country be resolved, the Kyrgyz foreign minister said Thursday.

"Speaking of the presence of U.S. military personnel in our country, we are not referring to the revision of the bilateral agreement, but to the need to resolve all existing issues related to that presence," Ednan Karabayev said.

Calls on the Kyrgyz government to consider closing the airbase at Manas, which the United States has leased since launching its antiterrorism campaign in neighboring Afghanistan in 2001, arose last year following a string of incidents at the base involving U.S. troops, including the killing of a Kyrgyz national and a plane's collision with a U.S. tanker.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev demanded that American servicemen stationed in the country be stripped of diplomatic immunity after Alexander Ivanov, 42, a driver with the fuel services company Aircraft Petroleum Management and a father of two, was shot dead December 6 by an airman identified by Kyrgyz investigators as Zachary Hatfield while undergoing a routine security check at the Manas airbase.

Karabayev said Thursday that Washington had agreed to assist Kyrgyz authorities in the ongoing investigation, but reiterated that Hatfield will not leave the country until all issues of his involvement in the murder of a Kyrgyz citizen have been resolved.

Located south of Bishkek, the country's capital, Manas is the only U.S. base in post-Soviet Central Asia since Uzbekistan evicted American troops from its territory in 2005. Kyrgyzstan recently raised the leasing fee for the Manas base from $2.6 million to $150 million as of 2007.

More than 1,000 U.S. servicemen and military transport planes are currently stationed at the airbase on a UN mandate to support the ongoing antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan.

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