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EU, U.S. Want New Turkmen Leadership To Deliver On Reform

New President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov pledged mild reform in select areas during his campaign (epa) February 17, 2007 -- The United States and the European Union have called on Turkmenistan's new president to implement promised reforms.

Germany, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, urged Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov on February 16 to free political prisoners and said it hoped his election would usher in a new approach to rights and democracy.

Berdymukhammedov was inaugurated on February 14 in a ceremony attended by more than a dozen heads of state or government.

The German Presidency said the bloc "hopes that the recent presidential elections in Turkmenistan will pave the way for internal reforms, in particular in the fields of human rights and democracy."

"The European Union calls upon the new President of Turkmenistan to free political prisoners and to guarantee adherence to internationally accepted human rights standards," the statement said.

For the United States, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said after meeting Berdymukhammedov in Ashgabat that he had heard "very consistent commitments" toward Turkmenistan's becoming a more open country.

But he cautioned that the new leadership must deliver on its commitments.

"You have to say things but you also have to do things," Boucher said.

Earlier on February 16, Internet cafes opened in the country for the first time since a ban imposed by the country's late president, Saparmurat Niyazov.