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Security chief confirms air base closure

KYRGYZSTAN will not reverse its decision to close a United States air base on its territory that is key to American and NATO operations in Afghanistan, a top Kyrgyz security official said yesterday.

The statement by Kyrgyzstan's National Security Council chief Adakhan Madumarov appeared to dash any US hopes of securing a last-minute reprieve for the Manas air base, just outside the capital of Bishkek.

"The fate of the air base has been sealed; there is no doubt the bill to revoke the basing agreement will be ratified," Madumarov said. Parliament is to consider a government-sponsored bill to close the base next week.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev stunned Washington when he announced the closure of the base earlier this week after securing more than US$2 billion in financial aid and credit from Russia.

Losing Manas now would pose a serious challenge to US President Barack Obama's plan to send up to 30,000 more US forces to fight surging Taliban and al-Qaida violence in Afghanistan. That threat comes as increasing attacks on transport depots and truck convoys in Pakistan have raised doubts about its ability to protect vital supply routes. About 75 percent of US supplies to Afghanistan currently travel through Pakistan.

Tajikistan has agreed to offer its airspace for transport of non-military NATO supplies to Afghanistan to help Washington boost its transit lines in the region, the US ambassador to Tajikistan said yesterday.

"The (Tajik) president confirmed his readiness to offer the country's airspace for non-military NATO supplies bound for Afghanistan," Ambassador Tracey Ann Jacobson said.

"This necessity emerged after a decision was made to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan," she said.

Tajikistan, a nation bordering Afghanistan, had said before it was considering offering its airspace for certain types of supplies bound for Afghanistan. A source also said the US was close to a deal with Uzbekistan over a new rail supply route for its troops in Afghanistan.


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