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Kyrgyz President Says Elections Were Valid

President Askar Akaev (file photo) Prague, 22 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev has said the recent parliamentary elections in the country are valid.

Akaev made his remarks today to lawmakers convening for the first session of Kyrgyzstan's new parliament in the capital Bishkek.

Akaev also said that the unrest in the southern part of the country will be brought under control soon but without the use of massive force.

The head of Kyrgyzstan's election commission declared today that the majority of the results in the country's disputed election are valid.

Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said the results validated 69 out of the 75 seats elected to parliament in the polls in February and March. "Today," he said, "a new parliament has been born."

The comments appear to deal a blow to opposition protesters, who yesterday took control of Osh -- Kyrgyzstan's second- largest city in the country's south -- after seizing the southern city of Jalal-Abad and the western city of Talas.

In Osh yesterday, thousands of protesters, some armed with Molotov cocktails and sticks, drove police out of the city.

The situation there is reportedly calm today. Emil Aliev, deputy head of Kyrgyzstan's Ar-Namys (Dignity) opposition party, told RFE/RL police and opposition representatives have launched joint patrols in several of the restive regions.

"We should be the first to set an example of obeying the law. For instance, in Osh and Jalal-Abad regions, joint patrols have been organized. Each includes one policeman and two representatives of the people who have stood against the authorities," Aliev said.

Aliev says protesters also allowed government workers back into their offices.

"The leaders of the movements that have taken control of the southern regions are now making police officers and prosecutor's office personnel return to their duties and continue their work, now reporting to the newly created people's keneshes, or people's parliaments," Aliev said.

Authorities Fight Back

Yesterday's mass protests against the internationally-criticized elections appeared to have put the country's leaders on the defensive.

The deputy head of Kyrgyzstan's presidential administration, Bolot Januzakov, told RFE/RL authorities were ready for what he called "conditional" negotiations with opposition representatives.

"Of course, the president is ready [for negotiations], the prime minister is ready, the first prime minister is also ready. Everyone is ready. But, in order to hold negotiations, there should be certain conditions. When people are breaking [things], starting fires, what kind of talks can be held? These [actions] must first be stopped. Then it will be possible to hold talks," Januzakov said.

But today, a spokesperson for President Akaev came out with strong words against the protesters. Speaking to Interfax news agency, Abdil Segizbaev condemned the protests as a "putsch" organized by criminals.

A prominent human rights activist, Topchubek Turgunaliev of the Rights and Freedoms Institute, was also arrested, although he was released after a short time.

The opposition has also remained firm on its demands.

Akaev yesterday ordered the supreme court and election officials to investigate reported infractions that may have occurred during the vote. But opposition activists say the move is a hollow gesture that is not meant to change the ballot's results.

Roza Otunbaeva, the leader of Kyrgyzstan's opposition Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) movement, told RFE/RL from Osh that opposition leaders rejected Akaev's proposal.

"Payoffs like the president is offering do not satisfy us at all. People want just one thing. The results of the former elections should be cancelled. We have only one political demand: The resignation of the president," Otunbaeva said.

Protesters have grown in number since the 13 March election runoff. But rallies have been mostly confined to the south. The region has a large ethnic Uzbek community and is poorer than northern regions around the capital Bishkek.

In an effort to spread the protest movement to the capital, opposition activists called for a demonstration today in Bishkek. A pro-government rally has already begun in Bishkek's central Alatoo Square, with a reported 3,000 people in attendance.

Opposition protesters from Osh, Jalal-Abad, and Naryn regions are reportedly planning to begin a march to Bishkek on 24 March.

Meanwhile, the international community has expressed concern at the rise in tension in Kyrgyzstan.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana late yesterday called on both sides to enter into a "broad dialogue aimed at finding a viable and democratic solution."

Dimitrij Rupel, the chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, made a similar appeal.

(Gulnoza Saidazimova and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)


Photo Gallery: How The Protests Unfolded

Authorities Attempt To Contain Protests, Negotiate

Kyrgyz Police Battle With Protesters In Southern Cities

For more on the Kyrgyz elections, see RFE/RL's dedicated website Kyrgyzstan Votes 2005

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