The leader of Kyrgyzstan's self-declared interim government has said that Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the president who fled the capital, Bishkek, following violence, must stand trial for "spilling blood" in last week's protests.
Roza Otunbayeva said on Wednesday that Kabiyev had exceeded the limits of his presidential immunity.
"Bakiyev has exceeded the limits of his immunity by spilling blood and now he must be brought to trial and answer before the law," Otunbayeva said after talks with a senior US diplomat in Bishkek.
Bakiyev has claimed he is still the legitimate ruler of the country, but has suggested that he is ready to resign as long as his safety is guaranteed.
"I am not clutching at my armchair and I have not said that I am not going to step down under any circumstances," he said on Wednesday.
"What I said is that if the issues of my personal safety and the safety of my family members will be resolved ... and if there is stability in Kyrgyzstan, then I am ready to consider this question."
Asked about the possibility of talks with the ousted Bakiyev, who has been in his southern power base of Jalal'abad since the protests last Wednesday, Otunbayeva said "we will see. We would have to determine a format for such a meeting."
She said there has been no contact with Bakiyev yet, but a senior member of her provisional government, Azimbek Beknazarov, has headed to southern Kyrgyzstan where the president is now staying.
Al Jazeera's Roza Ibragimova, reporting after Otunbayeva's news conference, said the interim leader was not clear about whether the interim government would actually seek to have Bakiyev arrested.
"Basically she said 'we're still putting pressure on him, we're still trying to make him feel cornered'.
"Her answers were not quite as direct but she did say 'if he were in our hands, we'd definitely put him on trial'. But it didn't sound like they were ready to actually go ahead and launch the operation to detain him."
Otunbayeva had earlier told the Associated Press news agency that her government would offer security if Bakiyev stepped down and left the country.
But there was no such offer for his family.
Otunbayeva said on Wednesday that Bakiyev's relatives and close allies would have to stand trial.
"As for his relatives and the former defence minister, these are people who shot citizens, and there can be no discussion of assurances of their safety, except for their legal defence in court," she said.
A court has issued an arrest warrant for Bakiyev's brother and eldest son, as well as Daniyar Usenov, the former prime minister, over the more than 80 deaths in last week's protests.
Meanwhile, Robert Blake, the US assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, said Washington would be prepared to help the interim government.
"I feel optimistic about the steps [the interim government] is already taking ... the United States is prepared to help," he said after meeting Otunbayeva.
'Brink of civil war'
Moscow also appears to have endorsed the de facto government, but on Tuesday the Russian president warned that neighbouring Kyrgyzstan is "on the brink of civil war" if the political situation is not sorted out.
"The risk of Kyrgyzstan breaking apart - into the south and the north - really exists," Dmitry Medvedev said during a speech at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington.
Natalia Leshchenko, a Russia analyst at the economic research group Global Insight in Britain, said Medvedev has good reasons to be very concerned and to be calling for more international attention to what is happening in Kyrgyzstan.
|Bakiyev has been rallying his supporters in Jalal'abad in the south [AFP]
"Kyrgyzstan is a country which has an important strategic position in Central Asia," she told Al Jazeera.
"There are very deep divisions between the more industrialised north and the more rural south ... The interim government unfortunately does not represent the whole population of Kyrgyzstan. Neither did President Bakiyev.
"What the country now needs is a leader who would be able to unite the whole society ... Otherwise the country will fall prey to radical Islamism and will become a very serious security hotspot."
Kyrgyzstan is strategically important for both the US and Russia.
The Moscow government has set up two military air bases in the country.
The US is leasing the Manas airbase, which is essential for supplies to its troops in Afghanistan.
About 70 per cent of the 5.5 million population are Kyrgyz.
There are also about 15 per cent of Uzbeks and a large Russian group in the capital.