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EU Praises Changes In Turkmenistan --> Berdymukhammedov (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) BRUSSELS, March 29, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner  says positive changes have taken place in Turkmenistan since the December 2006 death of president Saparmurat Niyazov.

Ferrero-Waldner said she met a Turkmen deputy foreign minister on the sidelines of an EU-Central Asian meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana on March 28. Ferrero-Waldner said the official promised greater openness toward the international community.

"What he told us in the very last bilateral meeting we had with him was really very, very encouraging," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Ferrero-Waldner also praised President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's administration for extending mandatory education to 10 years and for pledging to rebuild the country's health sector, which was largely dismantled by Niyazov.

Owing to its isolation, Turkmenistan remains the only Central Asian country that does not have a Partnership and Cooperation Treaty with the EU.

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