US might use Kyrgyz airbase in Iran strike: Russia

The US base in the capital Bishkek, is currently used as a key coalition hub for operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Moscow: Russia on Wednesday said it could not rule
out that the United States would use the US Manas airbase in
ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan for an eventual strike on Iran over its
contested nuclear programme.

"It cannot be excluded that this site could be used in a
potential conflict with Iran," foreign ministry spokesman
Alexander Lukashevich told reporters. "We hope that such an
apocalyptic scenario will not be realised."

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev in December said
it was "very dangerous" for the state to host the US Manas
military airbase and has threatened the Americans with
eviction when the current lease expires in 2014.

The US base, which is located at the airport in the
capital Bishkek, is currently used as a key coalition hub for
operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Lukashevich said using the airbase as a launch-pad to
strike Iran would require "changes or rather violations" to
the lease agreement between Washington and Bishkek.

"The statements from Washington which do not rule out a
military solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis have caused
serious worries in the Central Asian region," he said.

"The worries are shared not just by Kyrgyzstan -- where a
debate has erupted about the risk of a retaliatory strike from
Iran -- but other Central Asian countries," he added.

The United States and its chief regional ally Israel have
never ruled out a military strike against Iran over its
controversial nuclear programme but Russia has always insisted
the standoff can only be solved through diplomacy.

Russia also has a military base in Kyrgyzstan and has
long vied with Washington for influence in the country as
Moscow seeks to preserve its ascendancy in the ex-Soviet
region.

PTI

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