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Turkmen Report: September 2, 2002

2 September 2002
New School Year In Turkmenistan Starts With 'Rukhnama'

1 September 2002

Students across Turkmenistan started the new school year on 1 September by reading a spiritual guide written by their president, RFE/RL reported the same day.

All students in schools and higher-education institutions must study the "Rukhnama," written by President Saparmurat Niyazov and published last year, in their first class of the day. "Rukhnama" has been praised in the official media as on a par with the Koran and the Bible.

ITAR-TASS said that the country's deputy prime ministers visited higher-education institutions on 1 September to give a lecture on the book, telling students they will find "clear answers to the most varied of subjects." (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, ITAR-TASS)

Peculiar Form Of Alternative Military Service Introduced In Turkmenistan

31 August 2002

By April 2003 Turkmenistan will complete forming special military units to be attached to different sectors of the economy, Interfax reported on 31 August, citing Deputy Chief of the Turkmen General Staff Tirkish Saparov. In compliance with a decision by President Niyazov, 20,000 to 25,000 conscripts will be annually posted at the disposal of the management of various sectors of the economy, where they will be trained in civilian professions and given jobs.

Those draftees will be engaged in military drills only one day a month, and the rest of the time they will work at industrial enterprises. It is planned that officers for these specialized military units will also be drafted. As early as in September and October this year, 1,700 people under 35 years old who have a college or university degree and have served in the army will be drafted for receiving special training at the Military Institute and given the rank of lieutenant in the reserves. Next April, they will again be drafted into the army as officers for two years.

Meanwhile, according to the law on military service adopted in March 2002, people who have already served in the army cannot be drafted again. (Interfax)

Turkmen Officials Consider Russian Schools Unnecessary

31 August 2002

There are no Russian schools left in Turkmenistan, but only a few schools with Russian classes in the capital, and two-three schools in each of the five regional centers, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August, citing the Education Ministry. There is no need for Russian schools in Turkmen regions because there are not many Russian people living there, ministerial officials said. Three languages -- Turkmen, English, and Russian -- are taught at Turkmen schools. Unlike English, Russian remains obligatory. Only one Turkmen-Russian school in Ashgabat provides secondary education of the Russian type.

Most popular among the youth, however, is Turkish education. There are 14 Turkmen-Turkish schools in the country. (ITAR-TASS)

U.S. General Franks Urges Expanded Turkmen Cooperation

28 August 2002

General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Central Asia, says the United States hopes to expand its military cooperation with Turkmenistan, AP and Interfax reported on 28 August. Franks met with President Niyazov on 27 August in Ashgabat. Franks thanked Niyazov for his support for humanitarian aid operations to neighboring Afghanistan.

ITAR-TASS quoted Franks as saying the United States is prepared to provide technology and personnel-training assistance to Turkmenistan, including training border guards and supporting efforts to fight drug trafficking.

Franks has met with the leaders of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia over the past week. (AP, Interfax, ITAR-TASS)

Turkmen, Kazakh Leaders Discuss Cooperation

28 August 2002

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev held a telephone conversation on 28 August with President Niyazov, reported the next day. The two presidents discussed bilateral ties, cooperation, and key aspects of regional cooperation.

Kazakhstan is engaged in an undeclared competition for the role of Central Asian leader with Uzbekistan, which has just warned Ashgabat of its intent to limit the export of Turkmen natural gas via its pipelines. (

Niyazov Emphasizes Cooperation With Neighbors

26 August 2002

During talks in Ashgabat on 26 August with visiting U.S. State Department official William Taylor, Saparmurat Niyazov said his country is expanding cooperation with neighboring states on the basis of economic expediency where doing so lies in Turkmenistan's interests, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported the next day.

Taylor said that the United States provided $16.4 million in aid for Turkmenistan in 2001, which is considerably less than for other Central Asian states. The U.S. official also said the United States would provide Turkmenistan with aid worth a minimum of $17 million next year and expressed support for the planned pipeline to export Turkmen gas to Pakistan via Afghanistan. (Interfax, ITAR-TASS)

Niyazov Advocates Keeping Central Asia Nuclear-Free

26 August 2002

President Niyazov said after meeting with a United Nations official on 26 August, that his country is ready to sign the treaty on keeping Central Asia free from nuclear weapons, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Niyazov met earlier with UN Undersecretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala, who has been touring the area to promote the agreement, voiced in the 1997 Almaty Declaration.

Dhanapala said Niyazov was fully behind the idea and said he hoped the treaty would extend beyond Central Asia's borders to include Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The proposed treaty already has the backing of the Uzbek and Kyrgyz presidents.

Of the five Central Asian states only Kazakhstan ever had nuclear weapons, inherited from its days as a Soviet republic. Kazakhstan voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons to Russia and the United States has helped fund a program for the destruction of missiles and missile silos left on Kazakh territory and purchased left over weapons-grade plutonium. (ITAR-TASS)

Niyazov Enables People's Council To Name Presidential Candidates

26 August 2002

President Niyazov has signed a law on the selection of state leaders and public officials investing the People's Council with the authority to propose presidential candidates of whose programs it approves, reported on 26 August.

The primary criteria for selecting presidential candidates and other senior officials will be their knowledge of the state language, professional education, and the impeccable moral probity of both the candidates themselves and members of their families dating back for several generations, ITAR-TASS said 24 August. (, ITAR-TASS)

Right-Side Steering Cars Banned In Turkmenistan

25 August 2002

According to a decree by President Niyazov, cars with right-side steering wheels have been forbidden in Turkmenistan, Interfax reported on 25 August, citing sources at the presidential staff.

Speaking on national television, the president said the decision makes traffic safer. "Let right-side cars' riders sell them abroad," Niyazov advised. Exempted are right-side automobiles crossing Turkmenistan in transit. Control over compliance with the new rule rests with the republic's border and customs services, the main road-surveillance and forest-fire departments, and the Defense Ministry. (Interfax)

Red Cross To Help Fight Tuberculosis In Central Asia

23 August 2002

The International Red Cross will provide some 300,000 British pounds ($456,000) to fund a program to prevent the spread of tuberculosis in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, reported on 23 August. The organization estimated the number of persons suffering from that disease in Turkmenistan at 90,000, with some 9,400 new cases diagnosed annually. A Western diplomat in Ashgabat recently said that tuberculosis is so prevalent in Turkmenistan that doctors have been ordered not to keep records of the number of cases they treat. (