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An honor guard stands before a statue of Niyazov in Ashgabat (file photo) (epa)
19 February 2006 -- Turkmenistan is marking today Flag Day and President Saparmurat Niyazov's birthday.
Niyazov, to whom parliament officially gave the title of "Turkmenbashi," literally the "head of the Turkmen," turns 66 today.
He has been ruling the mostly desert country since 1985 and secured a presidency-for-life for himself in 1999.
Niyazov's systematic accumulation of power has developed into a cult of personality.
A series of commemorative gold and silver coins dedicated to the president was minted for his 66th birthday. Horse races, fireworks, and a military parade were also planned in the capital Ashgabat today.