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Kyrgyzstan will demand U.S. close airbase - eventually

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Kyrgyzstan is to eventually demand that the United States close down its airbase in the country, the Central Asian republic's president said on Wednesday, without giving a firm date.
MOSCOW, February 20 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan is to eventually demand that the United States close down its airbase in the country, the Central Asian republic's president said on Wednesday, without giving a firm date.

The U.S. Ganci airbase at Manas airport, located 30 kilometers (17 miles) east of Bishkek, accommodates 1,000 U.S. troops along with nine refueling and cargo planes supporting antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

"We will [eventually] raise the issue of its closure. That's for certain," Kurmanbek Bakiyev said in an interview with RIA Novosti and Russia Today.

Kyrgyz Finance Minister Tazhikan Kalimbetova disclosed earlier this month that Washington pays $17.5 million each year in rent.

Although Russia has encouraged Bishkek to demand the withdrawal of American troops, the impoverished nation of five million needs U.S. support and the military base has generated jobs and is a strong contributor to the Kyrgyz economy.

Russia established in October 2003 its own airbase in Kant, about 20 miles west of the Kyrgyz capital. The Russian base currently deploys about 400 troops, as well as 20 combat and transport planes, helicopters, and L-39 trainers.

Kalimbetova said Kyrgyzstan has not charged Russia, and has no plans to impose charges for the use of the Kant airbase, because the Russian troops are stationed at Kant under an agreement in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) - a regional security bloc in Central Asia, which also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan's debt to Russia totals $184 million, and in these circumstances, it would be rather "inappropriate" to demand rent, the minister said.

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