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Washington has informed Kyrgyz officials of its readiness to start withdrawing
Washington has informed Kyrgyz officials of its readiness to start withdrawing its military contingent from the Manas airbase, the Kyrgyz foreign minister said on Thursday.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed on February 20 a decree to close the U.S. Manas airbase in the north of Kyrgyzstan. The base had been used since 2001 to support NATO operations in nearby Afghanistan.

"We have met with the U.S. ambassador, who handed us notification from Washington that they were ready to start the withdrawal," Kadyrbek Sarbayev said during a meeting of parliament's defense committee.

The U.S. is to pull out its troops from the base by mid-August.

President Bakiyev linked the decision to Washington's refusal to pay more for the base and to the conduct of U.S. military personnel, including the killing of a Kyrgyz national by a U.S. soldier in December 2006.

Kyrgyz officials have rejected any connection between the decision and a recent Russian financial aid package under which Russia will write off Kyrgyzstan's $180 million debt and grant the country a $2 billion soft loan and $150 million in financial assistance. Moscow has likewise denied any link.

The defense committee in the Kyrgyz parliament approved on Thursday the termination of an agreement with 11 coalition countries on the deployment of their military contingents at Manas airbase.


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