July 6, 2008

U.S. Doesn’t Plan to Enlarge Ganci Air Base – Ambassador

BISHKEK. July 6 (Interfax) - The United States does not plan to enlarge the coalition forces' Ganci air base at the Manas airport near Bishkek, U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Marie Yovanovitch said in an interview with the newspaper Vecherny Bishkek.

Local mass media earlier claimed that the U.S. was in talks with Kyrgyzstan to enlarge the air base by 300 hectares.

The air base's location at a civil airport requires special care, the ambassador said.

The U.S. is prepared to build a new parking area for military aircraft at the site already rented at some distance from the airport terminals and runway, which will benefit flight safety, she said.

The project will have a positive impact on bilateral economic ties, she added.

The payments on the contracts to build a new terminal could reach $20 million, including the money required to do the construction work. About 80 jobs will be created for Kyrgyz citizens, Yovanovitch said.

The project is quite expensive as it envisions the construction of a parking area for large military-transport planes that comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization standards, she said.

When the coalition forces complete their operation in Afghanistan and the air base is removed from Kyrgyzstan, the parking area will be attached to the Manas airport, the ambassador said, noting that a project that meets the needs of the air base and can be applied in Kyrgyzstan had been selected.

The U.S. continues helping Kyrgyzstan to strengthen the borders, combat illicit drug trade and prevent and deal with emergencies, Yovanovitch said.

The U.S. has handed four Antonov An-2 planes and four helicopters to four Kyrgyz mobile groups operating in the border zones to prevent illicit drug trade, she said.

Over a thousand U.S. servicemen are stationed at the Ganci air base.

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