Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 12:39 UK

US agrees deal for Kyrgyz airbase

Manas US air base outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek
Prior to the deal, the future of the US base had been uncertain

The US has agreed a deal with Kyrgyzstan to allow its military forces to continue using an airbase that is used to support forces in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyz authorities had ordered the Americans to leave the Manas base, but now say that it can be used - but only for the transit of non-combat supplies.

The base, near Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, has been used to ferry troops to Afghanistan and refuel military planes.

The deal will now go to the full Kyrgyz parliament for a vote to be formalised.

The airbase, which supports Nato operations in Afghanistan, is the only US base in Central Asia.

Its closure would have come as a major blow to the US operations in Afghanistan, amid plans for an intense campaign against the Taliban.

The vote, expected to take place later this week, comes after the deal received the backing of the Kyrgyz parliament's defence committee.

The US agreed to increase its annual rent payments from less than $20m (£12m) to $60m (£37m) as part of the deal, Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev told the committee.

The agreement comes four months after the Central Asian nation ordered the eviction of US troops. However, it falls short of US hopes of maintaining the base as a fully fledged military facility.

Closure threat

US officials at the embassy in the Kyrgyz capital are yet to comment on the deal.

Some observers have suggested that, although offensive missions out of the base could be phased out under the new deal, the US are unlikely to wholly agree with that.

Paul Quinn-Judge, of the International Crisis Group, told the Associated Press: "At the moment, they are only talking about a trans-shipment of non-military goods.

"But I would not be surprised... if there was eventually a cosmetic agreement that allowed the US to fly its tankers out of there."

The site has been the focus of repeated street protests after controversies such as the shooting dead of a Kyrgyz man by a US soldier in 2006.

The presence of a US base deep in territory that used to be part of the Soviet Union and borders China has been of concern to Beijing and Moscow, which also operates an airbase in Kyrgyzstan.

In February, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said the airbase would close.

His announcement came shortly after Russia promised more than $2bn (£1.4bn) in aid, prompting speculation from US officials that Moscow had put pressure on Mr Bakiyev.

At the time, the president also made it clear the Americans had not been willing to pay what he regarded as the right price to keep the base open.

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