The roots of Kyrgyz political unrest

Here are five facts about the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, where opposition protesters demanding President Askar Akayev's resignation have stormed the heavily guarded main government building.

    Opposition has mounted of late to Askar Akayev's one-man rule

    * A mountainous former Soviet republic bordering China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, most of Kyrgyzstan's five million people are Muslims and live in poverty after the economy collapsed in the 1990s. 

    * Akayev, a physicist, has run the country since independence in 1990 but says he will step down in October. He has said any attempt to mount a Ukraine-style Velvet
    Revolution may lead to civil war. 

    * Kyrgyzstan's image as a beacon of democracy in post-Soviet Central Asia was tarnished after the authorities jailed opposition leader Felix Kulov on embezzlement charges for seven years in 2001. 

    * External debts of $2 billion were about the same size as its gross domestic product, but Akayav managed to gain a debt write-off from the Paris Club earlier this month. In a major  boost to the country's economy, the group of creditor nations cancelled $124 million in debt and rescheduled $431 million. 

    * The Kumtor gold mine, developed in a joint venture with Canadian company Cameco Corp, accounts for 40% of exports. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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