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Kyrgyz to consider second Russian base

world Updated: Jul 31, 2009 22:08 IST

AP
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Kyrgyzstan will hold talks on Saturday on establishing a second Russian military base in the country where the United States also has an important air base. Russia also wants to boost the number of troops deployed in the country by a Russia-dominated security alliance, Kyrgyz National Security Council chief Adakhan Madumarov said.

There were no specifics on the number of troops or location of the base.

Leaders of CSTO member states, which also include Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, gathered Friday at a lakeside town in for a summit that is expected to also due to consider the creation of a joint rapid reaction force similar to one existing in NATO.

A Kremlin adviser said this week that the proposed Russian base would be used for that force.

But the creation of rapid-reaction force may be thwarted by Belarus, which refused to sign a multilateral agreement on the force at a CSTO summit in June.

The US established an air base at the Manas international airport near Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, in late 2001 to support military actions in Afghanistan. The base has become an important transit point for coalition troops and supplies, and it is home to tanker aircraft that refuel warplanes over Afghanistan. Russia watched in dismay as the United States boosted its military profile in former Soviet Central Asia, and in 2003 Moscow opened an air base in Kyrgyzstan.

This year, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the Manas base would be closed. He made the announcement shortly after Russia granted the country more than $2 billion in aid and loans, and US officials suggested the eviction decision hinged on the Russian aid. But under an agreement reached in June, the US will continue to use the base, paying significantly higher rent.

The base's importance to coalition operation in Afghanistan was highlighted this year as militant attacks increased on coalition supply routes.

The presence of the US and Russian bases make stability in politically troubled Kyrgyzstan a concern for both Washington and Moscow.