Kyrgyz election winner says US base poses risk
Almazbek Atambayev said Kyrgyzstan will honour a contract allowing the US to lease the Manas base through mid-2014.
Bishkek: Kyrgyzstan`s President-elect has said the US air base needs to close by 2014 because its presence on Kyrgyz soil puts this former Soviet nation at risk of retaliatory strikes from those in conflict with the United States.
Almazbek Atambayev, who won over 60 percent of ballots in Sunday`s vote, said Kyrgyzstan will honour a contract allowing the US to lease the Manas base through mid-2014.
The United States has used Manas, located within the country`s main civilian airport, as a key logistical hub for operations in nearby Afghanistan since 2001.
"We know that the United States is often engaged in conflict. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, and now relations are tense with Iran," he said. "I would not want for one of these countries to launch a retaliatory strike on the military base."
The base is subject of frequent rumours among local residents and politicians, who maintain that fuel dumps by US planes devastate crops and cause illnesses.
US military officials have always strenuously denied such claims and say they make every effort to minimise their impact on the area.
Manas remains the only US military outpost in the volatile region after the US was evicted in 2005 from a base in authoritarian Uzbekistan over Washington`s criticism of a brutal crackdown on protesters by Uzbek forces.