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Kyrgyzstan cites slaying, finances in closing of U.S. base

  • Story Highlights
  • Decision comes amid U.S. plans to send troops to nearby Afghanistan
  • Leader says he's not satisfied with inquiry into 2006 killing of Kyrgyzstan man
  • Government also cites ecological concerns and feels U.S. should pay more for base
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(CNN) -- Kyrgyzstan's government said Friday that financial concerns and the killing of a citizen are among the reasons the country will close a U.S. base that has been a key operations point for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev speaks about the fate of the U.S. base Friday in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev speaks about the fate of the U.S. base Friday in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The decision came as the United States makes plans to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to halt a resurgence of the Taliban.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the decision to close Manas Air Base "regrettable." Just a few weeks ago, during a visit to the region, Gen. David Petraeus -- who oversees U.S. operations in the Middle East and Central Asia -- talked about how important the base is.

But Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced Tuesday that "all due procedures" were being initiated to close the base. He made the announcement at a news conference in Moscow after reports of a multimillion-dollar aid package from Russia.

Aibek Sultangaziev, spokesman for Prime Minister Igor Chudinov, said Friday that his government feels that the U.S. base has accomplished its mission of helping Afghans install their new government.

He added that his country is upset that the case involving a U.S. serviceman who shot and killed a Kyrgyzstan citizen has not been resolved.

Sultangaziev said the government also believes that the United States is not paying as much as it should for the base and has concerns about ecological problems resulting from the base.

Petraeus, speaking to reporters in Kyrgyzstan on January 19, said that U.S. assistance to the country "adds up to about $150 million per year in various programs, some $63 million of which is connected to Manas."

The base employs more than 320 Kyrgyzstan citizens, he said. And, he added, the United States supports "Kyrgyz counterterrorist, counternarcotics and military forces to about $25 million per year as well."

He said the prime minister had asked him about the killing at the base, "and I noted that the investigation into that case has been reopened and that I would brief him when the findings and actions are complete."

The incident took place in December 2006. The U.S. airman was transferred out of Kyrgyzstan, and the dead man's family was offered compensation.

Bakiyev said Tuesday that he was not satisfied with the inquiry and that his government's "inability to provide security to its citizens" was proving a serious concern.

Closing Manas base would not affect only the United States. Petraeus said the site "plays an important role" in the deployment of Spanish and French soldiers into Afghanistan, in addition to U.S. troops.

The Kyrgyzstan government's decision will go before parliament, where it is expected to win approval.

The president would then sign the law, and the United States would have 180 days to hand over the base.

The Pentagon said Friday that discussions, led by the State Department, are continuing with Kyrgyzstan.

But Sultangaziev described the talks differently. He said that there is standard contact between the U.S. Embassy and the Kyrgyzstan government on the working relationship between the two countries but that the government's decision about the base has been made.

Sultangaziev rejected any suggestions that Russia may have pushed for the closure of the U.S. base. He said the announcement of Russia's aid package was a coincidence.

The mountainous former Soviet republic is Central Asia's second poorest country. The U.S. base has been in operation since December 2001 under a U.N. mandate.

Kyrgyzstan also is home to a Russian military base, at Kant, that officially opened in 2003.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Tuesday that Russia would offer Kyrgyzstan a $300 million, 40-year loan at an annual interest rate of 0.75 percent and write off $180 million of Kyrgyzstan's debt.

Clinton said Thursday, "It's regrettable that this is under consideration by the government of Kyrgyzstan, and we hope to have further discussions with them. But we will proceed in a very effective manner no matter what the outcome of the Kyrgyzstan government's deliberations might be."

CNN's Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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