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Kyrgyzstan parliament delays vote on US base closing

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Kyrgyzstan's parliament on Thursday delayed a vote to decide whether Manas, a key US air base supporting NATO operations in Afghanistan, should be closed. The postponement comes after US State Department officials indicated that more compensation for the base may be available.

Still, the Kyrgyz government's submission of a decree to parliament for Manas's closure, which may have occurred at Russia's urging, is being seen as an attempt by Moscow to defend its regional interests. At a time when the Obama administration is hoping to step up efforts in Afghanistan, Russia also announced the formation of a rapid-reaction military force comprising post-Soviet nations.

According to the BBC, the Kyrgyz parliament has postponed discussions about Manas until the end of the month.

It remains unclear what the outcome of the parliament's vote might be, reports Reuters. While parliamentarians seem confident that the base's closure will be approved, officials at Manas believe nothing has been decided.

Despite Tuesday's announcement about the base's closure, US and Kyrgyz officials are expected to continue negotiations, reports The New York Times.

Talk of compensation was prompted by President Bakiyev's claim on Tuesday that his decision to close Manas followed failed attempts to secure further financial assistance from the US. According to The Wall Street Journal, offers of financial assistance from Russia may be behind the Kyrgyz initiative to close the air base.

The Wall Street Journal adds that Russia's aid offers signal its interest in retaining regional control.

However, Russia denies any connection between its financial packages for Kyrgyzstan and Bakiyev's call for the closure of Manas, reports the Financial Times.

A day after the Kyrgyz government initiated proceedings to close Manas, a bloc of post-Soviet nations, led by Moscow, agreed to establish a rapid-reaction military force to combat terrorism, reports CNN.

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According to an analysis in the Associated Press, action against Manas and the formation of the rapid-reaction force signal Russia's determination to enforce regional influence.


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