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Berdymukhammedov at the opening of an Ashgabat health center in 2005 (ITAR-TASS)
January 18, 2007 -- Turkmenistan's interim leader and presidential front-runner Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has reiterated a pledge to reform the country's depleted education system and public-health sector.
Meeting with residents of Turkmenabat, in the eastern Lebap Region, Berdymukhammedov said on January 17 that, should he be elected in the February 11 poll, the best Turkmen students will be allowed to study abroad.
He also said he would ensure that Turkmens have access to a better health-care system and high-quality, Western-made medications.
Turkmenistan's education and health sectors suffered severely under the 16-year presidency of Saparmurat Niyazov, who died last month.
Berdymukhammedov, a former health minister who took over as acting president after Niyazov's death, is largely expected to win the election.
He promised that salaries will be regularly increased and that Turkmens will continue to receive free gas, electricity, water, and salt.