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Internet Cafes Open In Turkmenistan After Ban Reversed

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov at his inauguration on February 14 (ITAR-TASS) February 16, 2007 -- Internet cafes are opening in Turkmenistan today for the first time since a ban imposed by the country's late president, Saparmurat Niyazov, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported.

Turkmenistan's new president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, ordered the reversal of Niyazov's ban on February 15, one day after his inauguration.

Berdymukhammedov, who was sworn in immediately after election results were announced early on February 14, suggested today that he will continue to reverse some of Niyazov's hard-line isolationist measures.

"Today, Internet cafes are starting to open in Ashgabat and other cities," Berdymukhammedov said. "At this moment, we are working on a program to extend Internet access to every school."

Berdymukhammedov also has restored an extra year of mandatory education that had been cut by Niyazov -- making it easier for Turkmen students to enter universities abroad.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who attended Berdymukhammedov's inauguration, told teachers in Turkmenistan today that their country needs greater "access to the outside world."

(with material from AFP, AP)