Russia to offer air base to US for Afghan transit

Sergey Lavrov said a plan to permit the US and other NATO nations to use the base in Ulyanovsk will soon be considered by the Russian Cabinet.

Moscow: A new deal allowing the United States
and its NATO allies to use a Russian air base for transit of
troops and military cargo to Afghanistan would help ensure
Russia`s own security, Russia`s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Sergey Lavrov said a plan to permit the US and other NATO
nations to use the base in the city of Ulyanovsk on the Volga
River will soon be considered by the Russian Cabinet.

Moscow has provided the US and other NATO member states
with air corridors and railway routes for carrying supplies to
and from Afghanistan. The new deal would for the first time
allow alliance members to set up a logistics facility for
troops and cargo on Russian territory.

Lavrov strongly defended the deal, saying the success of
NATO`s mission is essential for fending off the spread of
terrorism and illegal drugs from Afghanistan into ex-Soviet
Central Asian nations and Russia.

"It`s in our interests that the coalition achieves a
success before withdrawing and make sure that the Afghans are
capable of defending their country and ensuring an acceptable
level of security," Lavrov told the lower house of Russia`s
legislature. Some lawmakers argued that the US military`s use
of the Ulyanovsk facility could threaten Russia by allowing
foreign troops on its soil.

"We want those who are fending off threats directed at
Russia to efficiently fulfill their tasks," Lavrov said. "We
are helping the coalition to proceed from our own interests."

The foreign minister said the deal to be considered by
the Cabinet would allow the transit of NATO troops but that
they wouldn`t be allowed to stay there.

"They aren`t going to live there. They will only be
moving from one transportation means to another," Lavrov said.

He sought to assuage the lawmakers` concern by saying that
Russia would reserve the right to check the cargo, but provide
specifics about the deal.

The proposal comes at a time when the US government has
concerns about its supply options to coalition forces in

Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta met
with Kyrgyzstan`s leaders to stress that America needs the
continued use of the US air base there beyond the end of its
contract in 2014, largely as a transit center to bring troops
home from Afghanistan.


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