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Kyrgyzstan gives US six months

KYRGYZSTAN yesterday gave United States forces six months to vacate an air base key to military operations in Afghanistan, after Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a bill to formally close it.

But US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he believed the base was not a "closed issue." The US has said it would consider paying more rent to keep the base open.

Kyrgyzstan's president complained when announcing the closure this month that the US was not paying enough rent for the base.

"I continue to believe this is not a closed issue and that there remains the potential to reopen this issue," Gates said when asked about the closure of the Manas base.

"But we are developing alternative methods of getting resupply and people into Afghanistan."

Washington has received Russian permission for non-lethal cargo to be shipped across it. Central Asia's largest country, Kazakhstan, has also agreed.

The US Embassy in Bishkek confirmed yesterday that it had received formal notification of eviction from the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry, but had no further comment.

The US announced a small victory in that hunt yesterday, saying neighboring Uzbekistan had granted permission for the transit of non-lethal cargo to Afghanistan.


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