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Kyrgyz parliament committee approves U.S. transit center at Manas

RIA Novosti

13:1923/06/2009 BISHKEK, June 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Kyrgyz parliament's Defense and Security Committee unanimously approved on Tuesday the establishment of a transit center at the former U.S. airbase at Manas airport.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev, who attended the meeting of the committee, said the center would be opened "to provide support for the international contingent in Afghanistan, including assistance to the Afghan government."

Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. signed on Monday an agreement to establish a transit center at Manas international airport "to address the situation in and around Afghanistan, which is beginning to present a real threat to Central Asia, and Kyrgyzstan in particular," the minister said.

"We have no doubt that [Taliban] militants could ignite a local conflict in the region," Sarbayev said.

According to the minister, the agreement has been signed for a 1-year term and envisions annual U.S. payments of $60 million to the Kyrgyz budget for the use of the center. Washington will also allocate $36 million for the construction of additional aircraft parking and storage facilities.

The two countries also agreed to take joint measures to ensure the security of the airport perimeter and to form checkpoints.

In addition, Sarbayev said the U.S. offered Kyrgyzstan to establish a joint $20-mln fund for economic development and would allocate $21 million for the fight against drug-trafficking in the ex-Soviet republic.

The Central Asian country's parliament voted earlier this year to terminate an agreement on the Manas base with the U.S. and 11 other countries involved in anti-terrorism operations in nearby Afghanistan. Personnel at the base were set to withdraw before August 18.

However, media reports said recently that the ex-Soviet republic could sign a new deal on Manas with Washington in exchange for economic incentives and also for U.S. concessions to Russia.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's decision in February to close the base, which is staffed by about 1,500 personnel, was seen as a victory for Russia in its rivalry with the West for influence in the region.

Bakiyev said the closure was due to Washington's refusal to pay higher rent charges for the base and public discontent over the conduct of U.S. military personnel. He denied a link between the decision and a large Russian financial aid package.


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