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A senior State Department official has denied reports that the United States will seek to expand its air base in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.

According to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, the expansion reports are untrue. The release cited George Krol, the deputy assistant secretary for Central Asia and Public Diplomacy.

Earlier in the week, Kyrgyz and other regional media had quoted Kyrgyz officials as saying that Washington had requested an expansion of some 300 acres to the base, at the main airport in Manas, about 15 miles from the capital.

The base is a critical hub for U.S. troops and supplies heading in to and out of Afghanistan. Some 1,000 U.S. troops — mainly Air Force — are permanently stationed at the base.

Russia also has an air base in Kyrgyzstan and recently announced it was sending more aircraft there.

The U.S. base has occasionally been a source of controversy since opening more than six years ago.

In 2006, an Air Force major disappeared for 72 hours, returning with a claim that she had been abducted and held hostage.

In September of that same year, an Air Force transport plane and a Kyrgyz civilian jetliner collided on the runway. The United States blamed the local air controller, a Kyrgyz investigation faulted the U.S. crew. And in December 2006, an Air Force security officer shot and killed a truck driver who allegedly brandished a knife at a checkpoint. That incident prompted the Kyrgyz president to call for a renegotiation of the two nations’ status of forces agreement.


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