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    U.S. to close base in Kyrgyzstan after operations in Central Asia

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    The United States will close its air base in Kyrgyzstan, as well as other bases in Central Asia, as soon as military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are over, a U.S. military official said Thursday.

    NEW YORK, February 22 (RIA Novosti) - The United States will close its air base in Kyrgyzstan, as well as other bases in Central Asia, as soon as military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are over, a U.S. military official said Thursday.

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

    U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley said he does not consider the base at Manas, and all other bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, as permanent, adding that the United States wants to finish its business there (in Afghanistan and Iraq) as soon as possible and return to permanent NATO bases.

    Located south of Biskek, 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 the current $2.6 million to $150 million as of 2007.

    Moseley added that the military presence in Kyrgyzstan was not aimed against Russia, and that its main purpose is to counter terrorism.

    The United States and Russia have many things in common, he said, including the fight against terrorism, international crime and drug trafficking while the base at Manas plays a key role in the military operation in Afghanistan.

    Russia and the United States are currently in a dispute over American plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Central Europe. Moscow strongly opposes the deployment of a missile shield in its former backyard in Central Europe, describing the plans as a threat to Russian national security.

    Earlier this month Sergei Ivanov, the Russian first deputy prime minister and former defense minister, proposed that NATO collaborate with the Collective Security Treaty Organization to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, although the CSTO is widely viewed as a post-Soviet instrument for preventing NATO's further eastward expansion and to keep CIS countries under Russia's military protection.

    Kyrgyzstan is a member of the regional post-Soviet security group CSTO, which also comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

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