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Tajikistan: Standoff Continues In Western City

Prague, 17 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - A showdown, which began yesterday about 15 kilometers from the entrance to Tajikistan's western city of Tursunzode, continues. Our Dushanbe-based correspondent reports that government forces led by the commander of the Presidential Guard are still blocked by civilians, who reports say have been brought in by local officials and local para-military leaders.

The civilians are blocking the site of a major aluminum plant. The commander of the Presidential Guard has told the civilian demonstrators that his force is only assigned to guard the plant, which is state property -- and not to enter the city.

Tursunzode this month was the site of an attack by renegade commander Colonnel Mahmud Khudayberdiev from the southern city of Kurgonteppa. Last week, his forces withdrew after crashing forces loyal to local para-military leader Kodir Abdulloev.

ITAR-TASS news agency today said Khudayberdiev threatened to intervene again if Mirzoev's forces enter the city by force. Khudayberdiev is officially Mirzoev's deputy in the Presidential Guard Forces.

Pressure Grows To Include "Internal" Opposition In Talks

Pressure is reported growing on both Tajikistan's Government and Islamic opposition to include former prime minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov's "National Revival Movement" in the bi-lateral peace talks currently underway in Teheran.

Our correspondent from Khujand, the administrative center of northern Tajikistan's Leninabad province, reports that about 10,000 people today rallied to voice support for the participation in Teheran of Leninabad's representatives, notably Abdullojonov and his internal opposition group. Security forces have not interfered with the meeting.

Tajikistan's government rejects the participation of Abdullojonov's party in the talks, while the Islamic opposition has said Abdullojonov should be included.