Kyrgyz leader threatens to expel U.S. base

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev threatened Wednesday to expel U.S. troops if the United States does not agree by June 1 to pay more for stationing forces in the Central Asian nation. " Kyrgyzstan reserves the right to consider ending the agreement" on the deployment of U.S. forces in the ex-Soviet republic, where they are based for operations in neighboring Afghanistan , Bakiyev said on state television.

He said the government could terminate the agreement if talks on new financial terms of the U.S. military deployment do not end successfully before June 1. Bakiyev's administration, which came to power during a March 2005 uprising, has sought to increase revenues from the U.S.-led base set up in December 2001 at Kyrgyzstan's main civilian airport near the capital, Bishkek.

His statement sends a worrying signal to Washington , which lost its other base in strategically located former Soviet Central Asia last year when neighboring Uzbekistan expelled U.S. troops following Western criticism of the government's bloody May 2005 crackdown on demonstrators in the country's east. It also comes amid Russian concern about the U.S. presence in Central Asia . Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian air base, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Bishkek, and last summer a regional security body led by Russia and China called for the United States and its allies to set a date for the withdrawal of their forces from Kyrgyzstan , Uzbekistan and Tajikistan .

Shortly after that, Bakiyev said following his election victory in July that Kyrgyzstan could begin discussing whether U.S. forces were needed in light of the situation in Afghanistan , which he said was stabilizing. During a visit to Kyrgyzstan earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said that the base issue was one of the topics of his discussions with Kyrgyzstan 's leadership but "not the biggest issue", reports the AP.

N.U.