INTERVIEW - Kyrgyz interim govt may shorten U.S. base lease

BISHKEK Thu Apr 8, 2010 9:40pm IST

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BISHKEK (Reuters) - A senior official in Kyrgyzstan's self-proclaimed government said on Thursday that there was a high probability that the U.S. lease of an air base serving Afghanistan would be shortened.

"Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev," Omurbek Tekebayev, a former opposition leader who is now in charge of constitutional matters in the government that said it had taken over power from President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, told Reuters.

"You've seen the level of Russia's joy when they saw Bakiyev gone," he said. "So now there is a high probability that the duration of the U.S. air base's presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened."

The United States has leased the Manas air base, which provides crucial support for military operations in nearby Afghanistan, since shortly after the war there began in 2001.

Last year, Bakiyev said he would evict U.S. personnel from the base after securing a pledge of Russian aid, but he later reversed course and allowed the Americans to stay, albeit for a higher price.

(Reporting by Maria Golovnina, writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Steve Gutterman, editing by Alison Williams)

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