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Turkmenistan Removing Presidential Portraits

21 May 2004 -- Officials in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat are clearing portraits of the country's strongman President Saparmurat Niyazov from public display.

Early today, Niyazov's portraits were removed in much of central Ashgabat and a bronze statue of the president was removed from in front of the country's Interior Ministry headquarters.

A spokesman for Ashgabat's mayor's office said that Niyazov's portraits were being replaced with posters on political themes.

No public explanation has been offered for the decision.

Niyazov was Turkmenistan's last Soviet-era leader and was declared president-for-life in 1999. Until today, his portraits had been virtually everywhere.

(RFE/RL's Turkmen Service/AFP)