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Row Deepens Between Kyrgyz Parliament, Defense Minister

(RFE/RL) September 20, 2006 -- A legislative hearing on September 19 into army troops' recent encirclement of the parliament building included calls for the dismissal of the defense minister or dissolution of the Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry had claimed the August 1 deployment was part of a planned drill, although none of the building's occupants had been forewarned. The troops involved were armed.

The timing of the maneuver made it particularly sensitive -- since it followed an order by deputy parliamentary speaker Kubanychbek Isabekov to seize Defense Ministry facilities in the same building over unpaid electricity bills. The ministry has use of offices in the parliamentary headquarters.

Some Kyrgyz lawmakers on September 19 called for Defense Minister Ismail Isakov. Others argued that the Defense Ministry should be abolished, or that the number of army troops should be significantly reduced.

Lawmakers at the hearing also backed the Isabekov eviction decision that preceded the incident. They described the August 1 incident as a "provocation."

A new parliamentary debate to assess the work of Defense Minister Isakov and his administration is scheduled for September 21.

A popular uprising in early 2005 resulted in the storming of the government building and forced Kyrgyzstan's only president since independence, Askar Akaev, to flee the country in an abrupt changeover that ushered in the country's former opposition.