US, Kyrgyzstan agree to turn Manas base into ‘transit centre’

June 23rd, 2009 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Bishkek, June 23 (RIA Novosti) Kyrgyzstan has signed a deal with the US for the creation of a “centre of transit shipments” at a former US air base at Manas airport, a source in the Kyrgyz government said Tuesday.
The country’s parliament is due to start discussions on the ratification of the agreement later in the day, a lawmaker told RIA Novosti.

“The centre will be created at the air base and most likely inherit all of its infrastructure,” the source said, adding that the facilities would be used for the transit of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan.

The Central Asian country’s parliament earlier voted to terminate an agreement on the Manas base with the US and 11 other countries involved in anti-terrorism operations in nearby Afghanistan. Personnel at the base are set to withdraw before Aug 18.

However, media reports have said recently that the ex-Soviet republic could sign a new deal on the manas base with Washington in exchange for economic incentives and also for US concessions to Russia.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s decision in February to close the base, which is staffed by about 1,500 personnel, was seen as a victory for Russia in its rivalry with the West for influence in the region.

Bakiyev said the closure was due to Washington’s refusal to pay higher rent charges for the base and public discontent over the conduct of US military personnel. He denied a link between the decision and a large Russian financial aid package.

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