Kyrgyzstan may offer new base for regional security

Kyrgyzstan is considering establishing a base in the south of the country to boost regional security, acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said in an interview published Thursday in the Russian daily Kommersant.

"If there is a need for it, a military base in Osh could be established within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty and Shanghai Cooperation Organization," he said, without giving any further details.

The six-nation Collective Security Treaty links Russia with Armenia, Belarus and the three Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The group has set up an anti-terrorism center in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, although the move is viewed as largely symbolic.

Russia meanwhile said it was considering stepping up anti-terrorism cooperation with Kyrgyzstan but that it had received no specific requests to open a new base in the Central Asian nation.

Earlier this week, a regional Kyrgyz governor said Russia had discussed opening a second base to help fend off terrorist threats. Anvar Artykov, governor of the Osh region in southern Kyrgyzstan, told a news conference on Tuesday that the Kyrgyz government had yet to make a final decision on the issue.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko, however, denied any request had been received.

Russia "does not have information about an official request from the Kyrgyz side regarding the strengthening of the Russian military presence in southern Kyrgyzstan," he said in a statement. He added: "A possibility to deepen bilateral interaction in the terrorism fighting sphere is being tentatively considered."

On Wednesday, meanwhile, a top Kyrgyz envoy pleaded at a meeting of NATO and other nations for international support to help its new leaders prepare for July elections and to prevent unrest in neighboring Uzbekistan from spilling over.

Uzbekistan has been shaken by the May 13 riots in Andijan, where troops fired on protesters. The borders of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan converge in the densely populated Fergana Valley, where poverty runs deep and radical Islamic groups are active.

Kyrgyzstan, which saw its longtime president ousted in a popular uprising in March, hosts some 500 Russian military personnel along with fighter jets and other aircraft at the Kant air base east of the capital, Bishkek.

The United States operates a base at Bishkek's main airport.

MIKE ECKEL, Associated Press Writer

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