Kyrgyz president postpones promised constitutional reform

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said Thursday he favored postponing reforms to Kyrgyzstan's Constitution, reversing course on one of the key pledges he made while running for office earlier this year. "I think we need to decide the main question: which form of governance we need in Kyrgyzstan and then adopt a constitution accordingly," Bakiyev told reporters. "We need to give time for discussion, and then return to the issue in a year or two."

Bakiyev came to power in this ex-Soviet republic following a March uprising that ousted former President Askar Akayev. Bakiyev won the July presidential election, pledging to curtail presidential powers and give more power to parliament. "The presidential-parliamentary form of government justifies itself today," Bakiyev said. "Today we're not ready for it (parliamentary rule), but let the people decide after some time."

When asked about his critics' statements that he is holding up constitutional reforms, Bakiyev said: "They have no choice." Bakiyev earlier said that the public discussion of constitutional changes would take six months. Also Thursday, Bakiyev defended his government's decision to re-negotiate financial terms of the deployment of U.S. troops on Kyrgyz soil. He said that he expected the U.S. military to pay "many tens of times more than now," but didn't give exact figures.

"We're not bargaining with the Americans and not going to do so," he said. "Until now, they have paid a symbolic price." Kyrgyzstan has hosted the U.S. air base at the civilian Manas airport since December 2001, supporting combat operations in Afghanistan. The base has become increasingly important for U.S. forces since neighboring Uzbekistan ordered the United States to vacate a base there. Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian air base near Bishkek, informs the AP. N.U.

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