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Gates to visit officials, U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is scheduled to visit Kyrgyzstan and the U.S.-run Manas Air Base in early June, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Topics of discussion with senior Kyrgyz officials most likely will include the future of the U.S. air base, which serves as a major troop and supply hub for the war in Afghanistan.

No specific dates for the trip were announced.

In recent weeks, Kyrgyz politicians and media increasingly have questioned the U.S. presence in the country, with some reports saying a Russian presence at an air base in Kant should be expanded.

Adding stress to the relationship is the ongoing case of an American security forces airman who shot and killed a Kyrgyz truck driver at a base checkpoint.

U.S. officials have said the shooting was in self-defense. Kyrgyz investigators say they want to try the airman, despite a status of forces agreement protecting U.S. servicemembers in the country.

The driver’s widow recently said she would continue her efforts to secure more than the $50,000 payment she says the U.S. government gave her.


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