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U.S. has no plans to deploy military base in Uzbekistan - envoy

RIA Novosti


ASTANA, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - The United States has no plans to open a military base in Uzbekistan, a U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan said on Sunday.

Richard Holbrooke said Uzbekistan was offering the U.S. valuable assistance in cargo transit to Afghanistan but there were no plans to deploy a military base in the former Soviet Central Asian republic.

Holbrooke, who met on Sunday with Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, currently chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said the U.S. had an important transit center at the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, another ex-Soviet Central Asian republic, and was grateful to that country for such assistance.

The Kyrgyz airbase was formerly used by the U.S. military and is now functioning as a center for Pentagon transits to Afghanistan where U.S.-led forces are fighting Taliban militants.

In early 2009, the ex-Soviet Central Asian state ordered the shutdown of the base. The decision was widely seen as being influenced by Russia, which had granted Kyrgyzstan a large financial aid package.

However, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed in the summer of 2009 a law allowing the U.S. to continue using the airbase.

The U.S. will now pay Kyrgyzstan $60 million annually for the use of the airbase as a transit route to Afghanistan, compared with the previous sum of $17.4 million, which the former Soviet republic received for the use of its airbase.

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