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Kazakhstan: Parliament Appoints New Prime Minister

Almaty, 10 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Kazakhstan's Parliament today appointed the country's oil chief as prime minister soon after President Nursultan Nazarbayev accepted the resignation of the minister's predecessor.

The appointment of Nurlan Balgimbayev to the job, reported from Almaty by western news agencies, is expected to be officially announced later in the day. News reports also said that of the 40 members of parliament present in the chamber, 39 backed Balgimbayev, and that the new prime minister was immediately sworn into office.

Balgimbayev was appointed shortly after Nazarbayev delivered a key address to a joint session of both houses of Parliament on Kazakhstan's priorities. In his speech, Nazarbayev criticised the outgoing government of former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin for its reform record.

In his address, Nazarbayev paid tribute to the government for its energetic work. But Nazarbayev said reforms have been "insufficient" and that some aspects have not yielded expected results.

Kazhegeldin, a successful businessman until he became premier in 1994, has recently been under fire from forces opposed to his reforms. He resigned for unspecified health reasons and is currently in Switzerland for medical treatment.

The new prime minister, Balgimbayev, an oil engineer by education, worked for several years in the former Soviet Oil and Gas Ministry in Moscow, then, in 1992, traveled to the U.S. where he worked briefly in U.S. Chevron Oil Company. In 1994 he was appointed Kazakhstan's oil and gas minister and is currently head of the state oil company, Kazakhoil.

Balgimbayev was quoted as saying that he will not change the government's policy.

Other cabinet appointments are expected to be also announced later in the day.