April 20, 2006

US ready to finalize Kyrgyz airbase talks

BISHKEK (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it
was ready to finalize talks on the use of a military airbase in
Kyrgyzstan -- a day after the Central Asian state threatened to
shut it down.

"We are committed to a quick conclusion of our talks with
the Kyrgyz authorities on the continued use of the Manas
Coalition Airbase in Kyrgyzstan," the U.S. embassy in
Kyrgyzstan said in remarks sent by email.

"It is in both the United States' and the Kyrgyz Republic's
interests to continue our cooperation on keeping terrorists out
of the region."

U.S. forces set up the base when they overthrew the
Islamist Taliban government in near-by Afghanistan in 2001.

On Wednesday, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the
United States that he could shut it down if Washington did not
agree to a new contract.

Bakiyev had previously called on the United States to pay
more for the base but said the Americans could stay until
Afghanistan is stable.