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Central & South Asia
Turkmen president orders reform
The new president opens an internet cafe in the capital and raises school leaving age.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2007 11:51 GMT
 The late president had built a personality cult [AP]
Turkmenistan's new president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, moved to fulfil reform promises made since the death of his predecessor, including to repair the education system.
 
State television said Berdymukhammedov had signed a decree on Thursday, restoring an extra year of mandatory education that was cut under Saparmurat Niyazov.
On Friday, an internet cafe in Ashgabat was to be opened for the first time since Niyazov closed down such cafes, another move sure to please Western countries which have urged the new leader to break Turkmenistan's self-imposed isolation.
Also on Friday, Richard Boucher, US assistant secretary, was due to visit the town of Turkmenabat on the Uzbek border, a visit likely to reinforce US calls for the country to open up to the outside world.
 
During his 15 years as president Niyazov largely sealed off this country of five million people, relying on natural gas exports to Russia and Iran to fill state coffers, while building an elaborate personality cult around himself and his deceased parents.
 
Berdymukhammedov was declared winner after voting that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said marked an improvement but could not be described as an genuine election.
 
Basic education
 
The education decree follows widespread dismay at Niyazov's cutting of the number of years of basic education.
 
The policy stopped Turkmen parents from getting their children into Russian universities, which many saw as the best and most affordable option.
 
The decree describes the new 10-year period of schooling as the "foundation of education, allowing Turkmenistan's citizens to gain deep knowledge".
 
Berdymukhammedov told Chinese journalists: "Our aim is not only to save the results achieved since independence but to reinforce ... state policies and to implement them in the interests of the prosperity of the country and its people."
 
More internet cafes are to be opened in other regions of the country, he told the journalists.
Source:
Agencies
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