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Kyrgyzstan says will close U.S. base, secures Russian loan, aid

RIA Novosti

03/02/2009 21:56 MOSCOW, February 3 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan will demand the closure of a U.S. military base on its territory, used to support antiterrorism operations in neighboring Afghanistan, the Central Asian state's president said on Tuesday.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev is on a two-day visit in Moscow, where he also secured deals to write off Kyrgyzstan's $180 million debt and to receive a $2 billion discounted loan and $150 million in financial aid from Russia.

"The Kyrgyz government has taken a decision to terminate the rent of the base," Bakiyev told a news conference after talks with Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, citing Washington's refusal to discuss a higher rent and reluctance to address the 2006 killing by a U.S. officer of a Kyrgyz man in an incident at the base.

"If we fail to ensure our citizens' security, unresolved problems will cause legitimate public discontent," Bakiyev said.

New U.S. President Barack Obama has announced plans to considerably increase troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. airbase was set up in 2001 as a transit point for NATO supplies to the international coalition in Afghanistan and now houses more than 1,000 military personnel.

Russia backed the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, but its relations with NATO have deteriorated since over the bloc's ongoing eastward expansion and most recently an armed conflict with Georgia. Russia also has a base in Kyrgyzstan under a post-Soviet security pact.

The deal to write off part of the Central Asian state's debt and settle the other part by selling some real estate and enterprises to Russia was signed in the presidents' presence.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said in Bishkek last week that the Russian government was entitled to a former defense sector plant in Kyrgyzstan and a building in the capital to accommodate a Russian cultural center.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, President Medvedev said: "Russia will give Kyrgyzstan a $2 billion loan and non-refundable $150-million grant ... to stabilize the budget and finance key infrastructure projects, including the construction of a hydroelectric power plant."

Medvedev said a separate agreement had been signed to build the 1,900 MW Kambaratinsk hydro power plant. Earlier reports said $1.7 billion would be invested in the project.

The money is vital for the impoverished state, which is plagued by instability. This year, Kyrgyzstan will have to pay $240 per 1,000 cu m for Uzbek natural gas, up from last year's $145.

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