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    U.S. may look at Turkey following Kyrgyz base closure

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    Washington may look at setting up a military base in the Black Sea city of Trabzon in Turkey as an alternative to the Kyrgyz base which is due to close later this year, a Turkish newspaper said on Friday.

    ANKARA, February 20 (RIA Novosti) - Washington may look at setting up a military base in the Black Sea city of Trabzon in Turkey as an alternative to the Kyrgyz base which is due to close later this year, a Turkish newspaper said on Friday.

    Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed on Friday a decree to close the U.S. base used for the past eight years to support NATO operations in nearby Afghanistan. The United States will have 180 days to withdraw some 1,200 personnel, aircraft and other equipment from the Manas airbase.

    Turkey's pro-government Yeni Safak, citing an unofficial U.S. source, reported that Washington could turn to Turkey as an alternative location for the military base should the U.S. get a negative response from two other Central Asian states, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

    "If the Tajik and Uzbek variants do not work, then the next in line will be Turkey's Black Sea coast [in] Trabzon," the newspaper reported.

    The decision to close the Kyrgyz base comes as U.S. President Barack Obama announced he will send an additional 17,000 soldiers to Afghanistan to fight Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents. The move will increase the U.S. contingent to more than 50,000 personnel.

    Russia, which has an airbase in Kant, a short distance from the U.S. base at Manas, recently said it was ready to broaden cooperation with Washington on non-military supplies to Afghanistan via the "northern corridor," which is likely to cross Russia into Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan before entering northern Afghanistan.

    The Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. David Petraeus, who is currently in Central Asia, may visit Turkey in the near future to discuss the issue, the newspaper said.

    The U.S. Air Force has been deployed at an airbase in Turkey's southern city of Incirlik since the signing of a joint agreement in 1954. The NATO base is currently home to the United States' 39th Air Base Wing and some 5,000 U.S. service personnel.

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