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Kyrgyzstan: Business, Corruption and the Manas Airbase

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As the result of a full-press U.S. diplomatic offensive however, the terms of which remain to be seen by Otunbayeva, on 7 July Bakiyev grandly announced that the lease for Manas had been extended for a year.

WHAT CAN THE U.S. DO NOW?

On 10 April the United States Embassy issued a statement stopping short of endorsing Otunbayeva's government, commenting, "We remain a committed partner to the development of Kyrgyzstan for the benefit of the Kyrgyz people and intend to continue to support the economic and democratic development of the country."

On the issue of Manas, while during an interview with RFE/RL on 8 April Otunbaeva said the interim government initially had "some questions" about the base, adding, "we will honor the agreements and commitments we have signed," a member of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan told the author, strictly off the record, that the Otunabayeva administration had reached an agreement with Putin about a U.S. withdrawal from the Manas Transit Center, but no date was given. While the threat of the base's immediate closure has receded for the moment, the next year will prove critical should Washington wish to retain it.

Moscow has currently won the PR war for Kyrgyz "hearts and minds." While the Kremlin was quick to support the triumphant forces of change and assist the interim government with financial assistance, Washington backed Kyrgyzstan's now-deposed dictator. The U.S. has already failed to make a significant humanitarian gesture by not opening up the Manas Transit Center's medical facilities to those injured in last week's unrest in Bishkek, a mere 20 miles away but putting the base instead into lockdown.

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