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Kyrgyz Officials Seek Meeting With Protesters

Protesters rally in Osh yesterday 23 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- As demonstrators protesting what they call fraudulent parliamentary polls continue to hold key government buildings in Kyrgyzstan, President Askar Akaev has dismissed two senior officials for failing to rein in protesters.

Government officials boarded a helicopter for Osh today, where they had hoped to meet with protesters. But the protest leaders -- who have demanded Akaev's resignation -- turned them away.

Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev was reportedly set to travel to Osh as well, despite his rejection yesterday of opposition demands.

"They [protesters and the opposition] have only one demand -- the resignation of the head of state, the government, and so on. I am saying unambiguously [that] we will not sit down at the negotiating table unless they restore the existing structures and return to the starting point," Tanaev said.
"For us at the moment, the most important thing is not to say [that] this party is right or wrong. This is not the issue. The issue is now really to prevent an escalation of destabilization of the country." -- OSCE envoy to Kyrgyzstan Markus Muller

A presidential spokesman, Abdil Seghizbayev, stressed that the prime minister would not be negotiating with what he described as "criminal groups" occupying government facilities.

Aside from Osh, protesters are occupying government buildings in Jalal-Abad, Talas, Kochkor, and Kadamjai.


Those and other demonstrations prompted Akaev's dismissal of his interior minister and the country's prosecutor-general early today.

Seghizbayev said today that Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov and Prosecutor-General Myktybek Abdyldayev left at their own request. But he added that the departures were linked to demonstrations in the south of the country and the officials' "poor work in preventing those events."

Akaev named the security chief of his administration, Murat Sutalinov, to be the new chief prosecutor. Bishkek police chief Keneshbek Dushebayev will head the Interior Ministry.

Zamira Sydykova, editor in chief of the independent "Res Publica" daily, spoke to RFE/RL from Bishkek today. She suggested that the two new appointees might change official Bishkek's position toward the protests.

"As far as Dushebayev's appointment is concerned, I am not sure whether he will have a soft approach, because he is known as a very aggressive politician. As for the [new] prosecutor-general, he is known as a moderate politician who will not make rash decisions on arrests, for example," Sydykova said.

Akaev told the first session of the disputed parliament that he would not heed demonstrators' demands for an annulment of the polling along with his resignation. He also rejected some lawmakers' calls for a state of emergency to be declared.

Davron Sabirov, a lawmaker from the southern city of Osh, was elected to the new parliament in the first round of polling in late February. Sabirov did not go to Bishkek for the parliamentary session yesterday, however, to protest what he calls "government involvement in the elections." Sabirov, who ran as an independent, told RFE/RL that he supports negotiations with demonstrators.

"I'm against announcing a state of emergency. The problem must be solved through negotiations. Peaceful people’s demands must be taken into account. The people are dissatisfied with election results. Therefore, there must be negotiations held and the people's problems solved," Sabirov said.

Meanwhile, the international community is offering assistance in resolving the situation in Kyrgyzstan. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Dimitrij Rupel, chairman of the OSCE, offered Akaev their help yesterday in resolving the dispute.

The OSCE's envoy to Kyrgyzstan, Markus Muller, today stressed the responsibility that both sides bear to prevent violence and lawlessness.

"For us at the moment, the most important thing is not to say [that] this party is right or wrong. This is not the issue. The issue is now really to prevent an escalation of destabilization of the country," Muller said.

The governments of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have also expressed concern over the political unrest in Kyrgyzstan, and both have closed their borders with the country.


Photo Gallery: How The Protests Unfolded

Analysis: Uneasy Days In Kyrgyzstan

Analysis: Could Kyrgyzstan Emerge As Another Ukraine Or Georgia?

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

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