BISHKEK/JALAL-ABAD, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyzstan's embattled president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, has said in the face of a threat of attack that he is willing to resign if his security is guaranteed.
The head of the interim government, Roza Otunbaeva, told the Associated Press in an interview her team was offering security guarantees to Bakiev and his family if he stepped down and left the country.
The news comes amid fears that possible fighting between Bakiev's staunchest forces and those loyal to the country's self-proclaimed government could take a heavy toll.
Speaking at a press conference in his home village of Teyit in the southern Jalal-Abad region, Bakiev said, "I will go into retirement if security is guaranteed for me and my relatives." Bakiev's other conditions for resignation included stopping "people from running around the street with guns," and starting preparation of a "snap presidential election to be held within two or three months."
Bakiev also invited Otunbaeva to visit him for talks. He added that Otunbaeva would fail if she tried to use force to detain him.
Earlier today, the government of Bakiev opponents had given him until the end of the day to surrender or face an attack in Jalal-Abad, where he fled after public protests were met with roundups of opposition figures and gunfire by security troops in a number of cities on April 7.
At least 82 died and more than 1,000 were reportedly injured in the capital and other cities during last week's violence.
Bakiev quickly fled the capital and sought refuge in southern Kyrgyzstan, opening the door for political rivals who have long complained of corruption and other abuses since Bakiev assumed the presidency in 2005.
The deputy head of the interim government, Azimbek Beknazarov, earlier today said a decree was issued stripping Bakiev of his immunity from prosecution. Beknazarov said that if Bakiev fails to surrender today, he will be arrested.
"A criminal case has been opened against the former president," Beknazarov said. "If he does not show up today after the rally, the special services will take measures to detain him, because last night we stripped him of presidential immunity and now our law-enforcement bodies can detain him."
The interim cabinet in Bishkek has opened criminal cases against Bakiev and several of his immediate family members, notably his brother Janysh and his son Maksim.
Beknazarov said today the interim government also dissolved the Constitutional Court, "in order to prevent any attempts to use the Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan to destabilize the situation."
The self-proclaimed government has not yet been formally recognized by any nation or international body, although a number of foreign officials have contacted the "new leaders."
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the head of the new team, Roza Otunbaeva, last week, and a special OSCE envoy has met with Otunbaeva and members of her team in Bishkek.
Bakiev conceded on April 8 that he had lost control of virtually all levers of power.
Political and social tensions were already running high after Bakiev's disputed reelection
in July, amid signs of widespread corruption and public disappointment since the 2004 Tulip Revolution that ushered him into the presidency.
He also cautioned
that "a great deal of bloodshed" would ensue if those who asserted authority last week tried to kill him or seize him by force.
He has repeatedly asked the United Nations to send peacekeepers to northern Kyrgyzstan, where the capital lies, to help restore order.
Bakiev's supporters today rallied for the second day in Jalal-Abad. RFE/RL's correspondent at the scene said up to 4,000 people gathered in the center of of the city, where Bakiev addressed his sympathizers.
But many of those gathered appeared to have been bystanders, the correspondent noted, saying that "less than half could actually be called supporters. While about 1,500 gathered on the city square did applaud enthusiastically when Bakiev arrived and spoke, the majority of people remained across the street from the square and did not join in calls of support for the Kyrgyz leader."Return To Normal?
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington on April 12 that the United States recognized that "there's a process under way that, within six months' time, will produce a new government, one that we hope will be more democratic."
"There is a transitional administration [in Kyrgyzstan] that has taken over operation of government ministries. We recognize that reality," Crowley said. "It's not for us to say that today, the leader of Kyrgyzstan is Otunbaeva versus Bakiev."
Kyrgyzstan hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases. Otunbaeva said today her cabinet will renew the existing one-year lease for Manas, the U.S. military's air base in Kyrgyzstan that serves as a transport hub for troops and supplies into Afghanistan. In the interview with AP, Otunbaeva said the contract will be automatically extended when it expires in July.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today there are other options to Manas, but that the alternatives are "more expensive and more challenging." Also speaking today, the head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, said the unrest in Kyrgyzstan has not slowed the arrival of U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
In the meantime, life in Bishkek appeared to be returning to normal. RFE/RL correspondent James Kirchick said schoolchildren could be seen in playgrounds across the capital.
He said there were signs that some had turned the page on a turbulent administration whose fiercest critics accused it of returning the country to the excesses of its first independent leader, Askar Akaev
Kirchik also reported that a stone monument has been erected outside the White House in Bishkek to those who died in last week's protests.
One woman who brought her young son to the monument said that she was "afraid there will be more bloodshed because he's [Bakiev] gathering his relatives and supporters around him."
Askar Kakiev, a 75-year-old philosophy professor, said that "there were so many of our young people killed, this is really a grievance for our people."
Asked if Bakiev should go to jail, he said, "I don't know about that, it's up to the interim government. It should follow the law. Everyone should follow the law and the rules. The law should be cautiously preserved. It's a huge and terrible thing that happened to our people and I hope we never have to deal with it again in the future."
One captain in the security forces told RFE/RL that if there were any elements of the army or internal security force that remained loyal to Bakiev, they were sure to have fled with Bakiev to southern Kyrgyzstan.written in Prague based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and correspondents Bruce Pannier in Jalal-Abad and James Kirchick in Bishkek. With material from agency reports