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    Source dismisses Kyrgyz plans to withdraw U.S. base

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    The Kyrgyz authorities have not yet even considered closing a U.S. air base, a source in the republic's presidential administration said on Thursday.

    BISHKEK, December 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Kyrgyz authorities have not yet even considered closing a U.S. air base, a source in the republic's presidential administration said on Thursday.

    Foreign media said earlier citing sources that the Kyrgyz presidential administration was drawing up documentation to close the Manas air base in the ex-Soviet republic.

    "We have not officially considered the issue," the source said. "I have not heard if such documents are being prepared."

    A spokesman for the Kyrgyz government staff also dismissed the speculation.

    Col. Christopher Bence, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander at the Manas air base, said the base brought some $80 million income annually to Kyrgyzstan, including $17.4 million in rent and $2.64 million in wages for local employees.

    He also said the U.S. military will have bought some $18 million worth of goods and services from Kyrgyz manufacturers by the end of 2008.

    The U.S. 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.

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