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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[20.11.2OO2] Kyrgyz Head Warns of Bloody Clashes, Wont Resign

Kyrgyzstan's embattled President Askar Akayev, facing mounting calls from opposition protesters to resign, warned Wednesday of renewed bloody clashes and indicated he had no intention of stepping down.
Last week hundreds of opposition members arrived in the capital Bishkek to stage a "kurultai," or popular congress, to demand Akayev's resignation and the punishment of officials responsible for the March deaths of five protesters.
Tussles with police broke out at the weekend and several dozen protesters were detained briefly, while the rest were sent back to far-flung southern regions.
Akayev, a soft-spoken 58-year-old physicist once viewed by the West as the most liberal ruler in despotic ex-Soviet Central Asia, broke a week's silence Wednesday by branding his political opponents "instigators who whip up tensions."
"To all appearances, these people will not stop at the danger of shedding once again the blood of innocent citizens," Akayev told a meeting of Kyrgyz ethnic groups.
Political tension in the impoverished, agrarian nation of five million has been simmering since March when five opposition protesters were killed and dozens wounded in fierce clashes with police in the country's rebellious south.
The government fell in March after Akayev acknowledged that senior officials were to blame for the civilian deaths.
Akayev said the authorities would "take all adequate measures to avert attempts to shatter stability" and signaled that he had no plans to resign before the end of his term in 2005, despite the growing opposition pressure.
"I believe that in 2005...the nation will make the choice which answers best to its interests," Akayev said.
President since 1990, Akayev was re-elected for a final term by a landslide vote in 2000. The elections were branded by Western governments and human rights bodies as flawed.
"In 2000, these (opposition) people indeed voted against Akayev, but the majority did not back them, and does not support them today," he added.
Akayev made no mention of dialogue with the opposition, although he has called repeatedly for compromise and offered concessions in recent months.
In the latest standoff with the authorities, the opposition has so far shown no intention of backing down and says it will press ahead with its planned kurultai and other protest actions.
By Olga Dzyubenko, Reuters, November 20, 2002

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