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Central & South Asia
Deputy PM to lead Turkmenistan
Saparmurat Niyazov, the country's long-term leader, died on heart failure aged 66.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2006 03:06 GMT

Turkmenistan TV has announced a period of mourning for Saparmurat  Niyazov

Kurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, the deputy prime minister of Turkmenistan, has taken control of the central Asian country following the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the country's long-serving president.
 
Niyazov died early on Thursday of heart failure, aged 66, Turkmen state television reported.
 
He left no designated successor.
Berdymukhamedov was named acting president by the country's State Security Council shortly after Niyazov's death.
 
Speaking to state television after taking power on Thursday evening, Berdymukhamedov said there would be no change in policy following Niyazov's death.
Berdymukhamedov said: "Turkmenistan will continue the policy of neutrality based on the principle of good neighborliness and mutual respect."
 
"We will continue to go the political course of the great leader and will implement the domestic and foreign policy course of Turkmenistan's first president, which is based on peace-loving and humanism."
 
Berdymukhammedov said the country's Popular Council, made up of more than 2,500 Turkmen  officials, would meet on Tuesday to set a date for a presidential  election and introduce presidential candidates.
 
Turkmenistan in mourning
 
Turkmenistan's government held an emergency meeting on Thursday, naming Berdymukhamedov, the deputy prime minister, to head a commission handling the president's funeral.
 
 According to the constitution, parliamentary president Ovezgeldy  Atayev was due to take over in the interim, but that plan was  modified after legal proceedings were suddenly brought against him  on Thursday.
The government announced that the country "must remain united" and would respect its international obligations and bilateral treaties.
 
A statement read out on state televison said: "The internal and external policies proclaimed earlier will be continued further."
 
Niyazov had undergone heart surgery in 1997 and last month he publicly acknowledged for the first time that he had a heart condition.
 
Personality cult
 
Niyazov, who styled himself Turkmenbashi, had ruled Turkmenistan since 1985, establishing a personality cult with hundreds of statues and golden busts of himself erected throughout the country.
 
He also renamed several months and days in the calendar after himself and his family and ordered a number of "outlandish" projects, including the creation of a man-made lake in the Kara Kum desert, an ice palace outside the capital, a ski resort and a 130ft pyramid.
 
Earlier this year he announced he would provide citizens of Turkmenistan, which is the second-largest natural gas producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia, with natural gas and power for free through to 2030.
 
On Thursday, Turkmenistan's state television showed Niyazov's portrait in a black frame while a news presenter read a list of his accomplishments.
 
In the capital, Ashgabat, workers removed holiday decorations and New Year's trees, and liquor shops were ordered shut.
Source:
Agencies
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