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Turkmen President's Political Crackdown Continues --> 23 April 2004 -- Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has fired the country's finance and education ministers along with state-owned bank executives amid a high-profile crackdown aimed at combating official corruption.

Finance Minister Yazgula Kakaliyev and the chairmen of the boards of the Turkmenistan and Gashyzlyk national commercial banks were dismissed for alleged "lack of control by the banks over the use of money belonging to the state."

Niyazov had asked prosecutors to check financial discipline at banks and, during a cabinet session yesterday, Prosecutor-General Kurbanbibi Atajanova said banks had extended some $8 million in loans that are now long overdue. Niyazov said the money was intended for paying the salaries of health-care and education workers.

Niyazov also sacked Education Minister Mammetdurdy Sarykhanov and his deputy for combating extortion, bribe-taking, and cronyism at the same cabinet session yesterday. Prosecutor-General Atajanova reported an investigation had shown the two officials were involved in the crimes.

Sarykhanov also said directors at kindergartens in the capital Ashgabat had been collecting the salaries of 36 deceased people for five years.