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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Kyrgyzstan 'expels US diplomats'

The US air base at Manas, Kyrgyzstan
The US and Kyrgyzstan have clashed over a US air base
The Kyrgyz authorities are expelling two US diplomats for "inappropriate" contacts with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), reports say.

Spokesmen from the foreign ministry and another official body confirmed the reports, but it was unclear whether the diplomats had already left the country.

In a statement on its website, the US embassy in the capital Bishkek said the allegations were "simply not true".

It said the expulsions were a bid to "silence the voice of civil society".

And it vowed to maintain contact with "all sectors" of Kyrgyz society, including opposition figures and NGOs.

Confusion

The news agency AP quoted an unnamed Kyrgyz official as saying the expulsions were down to "inappropriate" contacts with NGOs, and the US embassy used the same word in its statement, which referred only to "reports" of the expulsion.

AP also quoted Tursunbek Akun, head of the official Human Rights Commission, as saying: "A decision has been taken, but the diplomats remain in the country."

But the local news agency 24.kg said "reliable sources" said two US citizens had been deported. It quoted one as saying that the expulsion was due to "gross interference in the internal affairs of the sovereign Kyrgyz Republic".

Kyrgyz opposition supporters outside the presidential palace in Bishkek on 24 March 2005
NGOs were active in the 2005 protests which overthrew Akayev

The apparent expulsions come on the eve of planned talks on the future of a US military air base, Manas.

The two nations have been locked in dispute over the base, after Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev demanded a one-hundred-fold rise in the annual rent to $200m.

President Bakiev came to power last year after popular protests swept the former President, Askar Akayev, from power after 15 years in office. The country's many active civil rights groups were a driving force behind the protests.




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Country profile: Kyrgyzstan
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