- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — Kyrgyzstan’s president has signed a law to close a key U.S. air base used as a staging post for military operations in Afghanistan.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed the bill Friday to cancel the lease agreement for the Manas air base. The base is a transit point for 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo each month to and from Afghanistan.

Kyrgyz authorities can now issue an eviction notice, giving the United States 180 days to leave the base.

Kyrgyz lawmakers overwhelming voted Thursday in favor of a government-backed bill to shutter the base.

Closure of the Manas base could hamper President Barack Obama’s calls for an increased military focus on Afghanistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the U.S. considers talks still open over the base’s future.

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