updated 3/5/2009 8:52:37 AM ET 2009-03-05T13:52:37

Kyrgyzstan's president said Thursday that despite ordering the United States to leave an air base that is a staging post for operations in Afghanistan, the matter is still open for negotiation, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's reported remarks signal a possible reversal on a recent decision to shutter the Manas air base, a transit point for 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo each month to and from Afghanistan.

Kyrgyz authorities last month issued an eviction notice, giving the United States 180 days to vacate the facility.

The resumption of negotiations would require different conditions for the use of Manas, the BBC quoted Bakiyev as saying in an interview, without elaborating.

The president's office declined comment on the report and the U.S. Embassy said no one was available to comment.

Despite pushing for closure of the base, Kyrgyzstan has repeatedly committed to helping maintain stability in Afghanistan.

"We are ready for any new proposals from the U.S. government aimed at stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan," Bakiyev was quoted as saying.

Bakiyev had complained that the United States ignored repeated demands for a rent increase from the $17.4 million paid annually for the base, suggesting some leeway for negotiations on financial terms for the use of the base. The U.S. says it contributes a total of $150 million every year to the local economy.

Moscow link?
Bakiyev last month announced the closure of Manas during a visit to Moscow, shortly after Russia pledged $2.15 billion in aid and loans for the impoverished former Soviet nation. The move was later overwhelmingly backed by parliament and signed into law.

Russia and Kyrgyzstan both insist that Moscow's aid package had nothing to do the move to expel the U.S. military from Manas. The Pentagon also said it saw no link between the two announcements.

Losing Manas would pose a serious challenge to Obama's plan to send up to 30,000 more American forces into Afghanistan this year to fight surging Taliban and al-Qaida violence.

The United States set up Manas and a base in neighboring Uzbekistan after the September 2001 attacks to back operations in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan expelled U.S. troops from the base on its territory in 2005 in a dispute over human rights issues, leaving Manas as the only U.S. military facility in the immediate region.

More on Kyrgyzstan

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