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Azerbaijan: Parliament Confirms Aliev's Son As Prime Minister

Baku, 4 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijan's parliament today confirmed ailing President Heidar Aliev's son, Ilham (pictured), as prime minister in an emergency session. The step clears the way for 41-year-old Ilham Aliyev to take over as president should his father die or become incapacitated. Under the Azerbaijani Constitution, the prime minister stands in for the head of state, pending new elections, should the president be unable to fulfill his official functions.

"There are many parties and independent deputies, including opposition members, represented in our parliament, so I didn't expect a unanimous vote," Ilham Aliyev said. "But I'm grateful to all those who voted in my favor."

Deputies voted by 101 in favor and one abstention to approve the appointment. Opposition parties boycotted today's vote. Parliament speaker Murtuz Aleskerov said the appointment had been formally proposed by President Aliev.

Aliyev added: "The Azerbaijani economy is on the rise and I will do everything to continue the course. I expect no serious changes in the government. As for the president's health, it is good. He planned to return a couple of days ago but the doctors wanted some additional treatment. However, I believe he will return to Azerbaijan soon."

There is no immediate word on the future of Artur Rasizade, the long-serving prime minister whom Ilham Aliyev replaces.

The 80-year-old Aliyev has been hospitalized in Turkey since early July and has not appeared in public since. A doctor at the hospital yesterday described Aliev's condition as serious but stable.