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Key Kyrgyz Leader Quits; Akayev Told to Stay Away

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=626265 Key Kyrgyz Leader Quits; Akayev Told to Stay Away Mar 30, 2005 — By Michael Steen BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2005
      http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=626265

      Key Kyrgyz Leader Quits; Akayev Told to Stay Away

      Mar 30, 2005 � By Michael Steen

      BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) - One the two key Kyrgyz
      leaders to emerge from last week's coup, Felix Kulov,
      resigned on Wednesday as security chief, triggering
      concerns a split was already developing in the Central
      Asian state's new leadership.

      And underscoring fears that impoverished Kyrgyzstan
      could reignite into violence, acting President
      Kurmanbek Bakiyev urged ousted leader Askar Akayev not
      to return from exile in Russia, saying the country was
      still too unstable.

      "I would advise him not to come because his return is
      not expedient at the moment. Passions have not yet
      died down," Bakiyev said on national television,
      fielding questions from viewers.

      "If he decided to return in the short term, then it
      could spark unrest not only in (the capital) Bishkek,
      but throughout the republic."

      Akayev, who led the ex-Soviet state for 14 years until
      he fled in the face of violent opposition protests
      last Thursday, said he was ready to come home if his
      safety was guaranteed and would work with parliament
      to ensure a legitimate change of power.

      He won that guarantee from Kulov early Wednesday. But
      within hours, Kulov had resigned, giving as his reason
      the fact the country was back to normal.

      "With God's help, order was formed, ministers were
      appointed and everything has returned to a
      constitutional framework � Once the government was
      formed the need for me to be there disappeared," Kulov
      told Reuters.

      "There are no reasons (for stepping down) other than
      this."

      But a close Kulov associate told Reuters he had quit
      after Bakiyev appointed one of his own allies as head
      of the national security service without consulting
      Kulov.

      The acting president also put as deputy head of the
      security service a person involved in an investigation
      into Kulov, who was jailed for embezzlement during
      Akayev's rule.

      Kulov, a tough-talking former secret police chief who
      was freed by protesters from jail last Thursday, says
      the charges were trumped up for political reasons.

      The resignation is the latest twist for the country
      still trying to come to terms with such an abrupt
      change in leadership whose legitimacy many Kyrgyz
      question.

      The lightning speed of the coup appears to have
      surprised even the former Akayev associates it
      catapulted to power and some analysts say it could set
      Kyrgyzstan toward the authoritarianism that is the
      hallmark of the region.

      The Kulov aide said the resignation added to concerns
      about stability.

      "People say 'we have only just started to believe in
      stabilization and already this has started'. It is
      quite possible his statement could trigger a
      destabilization of the situation."

      Akayev had been fairly well regarded abroad but at
      home his reform effort was widely criticized for
      failing to improve the lot of the five million Kyrgyz,
      most of whom struggle along with a dollar a day.

      POSSIBLE SPLIT

      Kulov's resignation also points to a possible split
      among new leaders, who analysts say have never liked
      each other.

      Kulov denied there was any divide in the new
      leadership: "Bakiyev and I have good relations."

      But he declined to be drawn on whether he would run
      against Bakiyev for the presidency on June 26.

      "It is early yet to start talking about that issue.
      First of all I have to clear my name (over the
      embezzlement charges) in the Supreme Court."

      He said he had offered proposals to bring greater
      unity to the country whose north-south divide is
      largely based on economic and ethnic differences as
      well as a huge mountain range separating them.

      Kulov is from the wealthier north, and Bakiyev from
      the poor south where the protests first erupted.

      The European Union said in a statement it urged the
      new Kyrgyz leaders to respect democratic values and
      human rights.

      "The European Union calls on the new leaders to take
      all necessary measures to guarantee security and
      stability in the country."

      (Additional reporting by Christian Lowe)
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