Kyrgyz activists urge closure of US military base

Several dozen activists rallied on Saturday in front of the US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan to call for the closure of a US military base in the former Soviet republic. The United States maintains the military base at Manas airport outside the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, is to support operations in Afghanistan, but Kyrgyz politicians are increasingly calling for its closure, accusing US military personnel of behaving with impunity and saying the base spoils the environment. About 50 activists held a protest outside the US Embassy, holding banners reading "Kyrgyzstan is not a beachhead for war" and "NATO get out of Kyrgyz territory." The Foreign Ministry said last month that any use of the base beyond the Afghanistan operation would be "unacceptable" - an apparent reflection of concerns it might be used for strikes inside Iran or Iraq. Several lawmakers have said they will initiate a bill calling for the base's closure.