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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Kyrgyzstan agrees Russian base

By Steve Rosenberg
BBC correspondent in Moscow

Russian troops
The Russian base will be 30 km from a US camp
Kyrgyzstan has agreed to allow Russia to open a military base in the country.

The base in Kant will be just 30 kilometres (20miles) from a US military camp, which was set up on a temporary basis to help America's war on terror in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

The Russian air force base will house a new rapid reaction force.

Its task will be to repel terrorist threats from Central Asia.

Speaking in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said the base would offer greater security to Kyrgyzstan.

Russian tentacles

He also said it was important for Russia, too, and for other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States who had signed up to a Common Security Pact.

It is also a symbol of Russia's determination to maintain its influence in Central Asia.

That influence seemed to wane after 11 September when the US - with Mr Putin's blessing - opened its own military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - to aid the war in Afghanistan against the Taleban.

The idea of American troops on Russia's southern doorstep caused deep concern amongst many in the Russian military.

Opening a Russian base now in Kyrgyzstan - so near to a US army operation - will go some way to allay those fears.

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