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New Kyrgyzstan president tells US to close base by 2014
Kyrgyzstan’s president-elect Amazbexk Atambayev has declared that the United States must shut down its base in the central Asian country when the lease expires in 2014. Atambayev, who won Sunday’s election with over 63 per cent of the vote, said that the base’s presence is a security threat to Kyrgyzstan.
The Manas Transit Centre, at a civilian airport just outside the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, is used as a support base for operations in Afghanistan.
Nato troops are due to be leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Local politicians say that fuel dumps by US planes destroy crops and cause illness, claims that are denied by Washington.
But Atambayev, who resigned as prime minister to stand as president, invoked the country’s security to justify the ultimatum.
“We know that the United States is often engaged in conflict. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, and now relations are tense with Iran,” he said. “I would not want for one of these countries to launch a retaliatory strike on the military base.”
Another US base in Uzbekistan was shut down in 2005 over Washington’s criticism of a crackdown on protesters by Uzbek government forces.
Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, is the only country in the world to host bases of both the US and Russia.
Atambayev has made approaches to Moscow, indicating that he will take a pro-Russian line.
His convincing win meant that there would be no runoff with his rivals, Adakhan Madumarov and Kamchibek Tashiyev. He is from the north, while they are from the south, where there some protests against the result on Monday.
Kyrgyzstan was the scene of ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in 2010.
Atambayev first became widely know in the 1990s when he set up a printing house that published Russian translations of Mario Puzo’s Godfather series, as well as Anthony Burgesses’s Clockwork Orange and the works of the Marquis de Sade.
He served briefly as prime minister under Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power in the 2005 Tulip revolution, and unsuccessfully challenged him in a 2009 presidential vote.