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    Kyrgyzstan will close U.S. base if used against Iran - senior MP

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    Kyrgyzstan will close a U.S. military base on its territory if the United States uses it for purposes other than to support an antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan, the parliamentary speaker said in an interview with RIA Novosti Monday.

    BISHKEK, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan will close a U.S. military base on its territory if the United States uses it for purposes other than to support an antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan, the parliamentary speaker said in an interview with RIA Novosti Monday.

    Located south of Bishkek, the country's capital, Manas airbase is the only U.S. base in post-Soviet Central Asia since Uzbekistan evicted American troops from its territory in 2005. Recent media reports hinted at the possibility of the U.S. using the base in the Central Asian state to deliver air strikes against Iran.

    "The American base has been opened only to conduct an antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan, because we allowed [the U.S.] to use it only for work in Afghanistan," Marat Sultanov said.

    The speaker said he raised the issue during his recent meeting with U.S. Ambassador Mary Jovanovich, "stating that if we [Kyrgyzstan] have any suspicions that this [Manas] base is intended for other purposes, we will immediately consider closing the airbase."

    Kyrgyzstan recently raised the leasing fee for the base, which deploys about 1,000 personnel and has military transport aircraft, to $150 million as of 2007.

    Sultanov said Kyrgyzstan also suggested increasing the number of personnel at a Russian airbase in Kant, about 20 miles west of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. He said in that event, Kyrgyzstan could review the need for the U.S. airbase in the country altogether.

    "If the Kant base is enlarged, the security of our airspace and our state borders will be ensured, and [the need for] further operations at the Manas base, which provides air support to international antiterrorism coalition troops in Afghanistan, could be discussed," Sultanov said.

    Calls on the Kyrgyz government to consider closing the airbase at Manas arose last year following a string of incidents at the base involving U.S. troops, including the killing of a Kyrgyz national and a plane's collision with a U.S. tanker.

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