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Bakiyev confirmed as Kyrgyz interim leader
Updated: 2005-03-28 00:24

Kyrgyzstan's new authorities, struggling to end chaos after last week's coup, Monday appointed as the Central Asian country's leader a key figure behind the overthrow of veteran President Askar Akayev.

With the crisis threatening to drag the impoverished ex-Soviet state even deeper into mayhem, the new parliament named as prime minister the man who had led protests against its election and triggered the coup -- Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

That automatically confirms his position as acting president, a role he took on last Friday even though Akayev, in power for 14 years, has refused to quit.

Monday, Akayev issued a statement from exile in Russia, accusing the new leaders of disgracing the country and ruining the economy.

The statement sent by e-mail to Kyrgyz news agency Kabar and posted on its Web site (www.kabar.kg) did not indicate whether Akayev would resign or try to return home as he has hinted.

Bakiyev's appointment also means the country finally has a leadership with some claim to legitimacy after days of confusion over who was in charge.

The new leaders had warned of the risk of civil war following Thursday's collapse of the old government in an orgy of violence and looting.

Bakiyev was quick to hold out an olive branch to the new parliament whose election he had disputed and which Monday was formally allowed to take over from the previous legislature.

"I can be reproached for saying earlier that the (February, March) polls were not legitimate. I said so. But in this parliament we have questions to only 15 to 20 constituencies, no one is saying that all deputies have to go."

And he backed the proposal for a special commission to arrange a transfer of power including from the exiled Akayev.

Kyrgyzstan has set June 26 for a new presidential election, although the date still has to be confirmed. Bakiyev is almost certain to stand.


Kyrzystan's new leaders -- mostly top officials at one time during Akayev's rule -- dismissed widespread suggestions they had little fondness for one another and were already squabbling over the spoils.

"We have no difference of opinion. It's just a misunderstanding," said popular opposition leader Felix Kulov when asked about reports of conflict with Bakiyev. Kulov, freed from jail by protesters during Thursday's mass protests that brought down Akayev, is now one of the most powerful men in Kyrgyzstan with control over the security forces.

The new government won a helping hand from Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday when he promised to get emergency aid to Moscow's ex-Soviet ally which says it desperately needs food and fuel.

The constitutional crisis has stoked tension in the mainly Muslim state of 5 million where mass looting broke out after the coup, although there was calm over Sunday night.

"The rule of the Kalashnikov (rifle)" would take over in the country if the crisis was unresolved, the speaker of the new parliament Omurbek Tekebayev told journalists.

Bakiyev's supporters said at the weekend that a plot to kill him had been uncovered.

The new legislature, discredited though it is by the disputed election, assumed authority when the old assembly bowed out Monday.

"The old parliament has ... passed all responsibility to the new one. They do not want friction," deputy Nikolai Bailo told reporters.

Ordinary Kyrgyz appeared far from convinced that their new leaders would offer much of a better life in a country where most survive on a dollar a day.

"After all the looting and destruction that we've had I do not recognize my own city. If this new leadership had not come along none of this would have happened. We need to change the leadership again," said Zarina Anarbekova, a student.

But there was some optimism. "We all hoped the last lot would get the factories working again and give old people a decent life. But nothing came of that. Now we hope the new government will improve things," pensioner Shaimbul Saatibekova said.

The unrest over disputed elections followed a pattern established by two other ex-Soviet states, Ukraine and Georgia, which have also seen a change of guard following protests, although there was no violence.

Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous country bordering China, lies in a region, rich in oil and gas deposits, which is viewed with keen interest by Moscow and Washington. Both have military bases in the country.

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