A Kyrgyz interim leader says US base unjustified

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — A top official in Kyrgyzstan's interim government told The Associated Press on Saturday that a U.S. air base supporting operations in Afghanistan is "not justified," the first sign of significant divisions over the facility.

Azymbek Beknazarov, the acting prosecutor general, is deputy leader of the interim government and is likely retain a position of power when the permanent government is formed, giving him significant sway over the Manas base.

Since a bloody uprising that culminated in the toppling of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the interim government's leader has announced the Manas air base can remain open for a year after the lease expires in July.

Beknazarov and others in the interim government charge the U.S. with ignoring their oppression when they opposed Bakiyev because it wanted to protect Manas.

"All the Americans care about is that the military base stays," Beknazarov said. "They forgot about freedom, about democratic values. They forgot about Kyrgyzstan — they are only looking at their military base."

"In my opinion, the presence of the Manas center is not justified," he said.

Beknazarov declined to comment on whether he or anyone in the interim government will attempt to initiate the closure of the base. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek declined to comment.

At Bakiyev's presidential compound near the southern village of Teyit, special forces on Saturday cordoned off the area to allow prosecutors to enter and search for weapons.

___

Associated Press writers Peter Leonard in Teyit, Kyrgyzstan, and David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.