New Kyrgyz leader promises elections

Kyrgyzstan’s new acting head of state, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, said on Friday that fresh presidential elections in the Central Asian nation will take place in June.

”According to the existing Constitution, the elections of a new president must take place within three months,” Bakiyev told Parliament. ”We will follow the existing law.”

He did not announce a date for the vote.

Bakiyev, one of the leaders of Kyrgyzstan’s opposition, spoke after Parliament named him acting president and prime minister of the mountainous nation of five million people on China’s western border.

The announcement came a day after the 15-year regime of president Askar Akayev collapsed in chaos after thousands of opposition protestors overran the country’s main seat of power in the capital.

At least three people died in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, during the chaotic fall of the ruling regime and the widespread looting that followed, a lawmaker said on Friday.

”Three deaths have been reported to the interior ministry,” Timir Sariyev, a Parliament deputy, said on state television.

Akayev, a 60-year-old physicist by training, was considered the most liberal ruler of ex-Soviet Central Asia.

No change to US, Russian bases

Kyrgyzstan does not plan to call into question the presence or status of United States and Russian military bases despite the change in power there, Bakiyev said on Friday.

”Kyrgyzstan is not planning to review its previous international engagements,” Bakiyev told reporters. ”This applies to the air bases of the anti-terrorism coalition and the Russian air base at Kant.”

The Russian base at Kant, inaugurated personally by President Vladimir Putin in October 2003, was the first military facility set up by Moscow in any former Soviet republic since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

It was located at the site of a one-time Soviet air base that had been empty since the early 1990s and was regarded as a counter-presence to a new air base set up in 2002 by the US-led anti-terrorism coalition after the September 11 attacks.

The fate of both bases was called into question by the sudden collapse of the Akayev regime.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Thursday while on a visit to Guatemala that the political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan should not have an impact on the US troop presence there.

”I’m confident that there’ll be no issue with respect to US forces,” Rumsfeld said.

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a new body grouping Russia and five former Soviet republics, including Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile planned to meet on Friday in Moscow to examine the situation in Bishkek, the military news agency Interfax-AVN reported.

”Instability in Kyrgyzstan can undermine security throughout the Central Asia region,” the agency quoted an unnamed source with the organisation as saying ahead of the meeting. — Sapa-AFP

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