BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry has decided to expel two U.S. diplomats from this ex-Soviet republic for "inappropriate" contacts with nongovernment organizations, an official said Tuesday.
Tursunbek Akun, head of the official Human Rights Commission, said the diplomats remain in the country for now.
A U.S. Embassy official confirmed the expulsion decision on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media. An embassy statement said "reports" of the expulsion of its two diplomats were "simply not true."
"This can be seen as an attempt to intimidate embassies and silence the voice of civil society," the statement said.
The embassy said it would continue to maintain contact with all sectors of Kyrgyz society, including opposition and nongovernmental organizations.
"It is difficult to see how the expulsion of U.S. diplomats without grounds would serve the long-term interest of Kyrgyzstan," it said.
The two nations plan a final round of talks starting Wednesday on a payment dispute that threatens the future of the U.S. military base in the impoverished nation of 5 million.
Kyrgyzstan had proposed $200 million — a tenfold increase in annual payments — for use of the base, which has supported U.S.-led operations in nearby Afghanistan since 2001.