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Kyrgyzstan: New Prime Minister Appointed

Prague, 26 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev has appointed Kubanychbek JumAliyev Prime Minister. President Akayev sent Jumaliev's nomination to a joint session of Parliament, and the nomination was approved in a near unanimous vote yesterday.

Akayev told the session he had chosen JumAliyev from among ten candidates, including governors of regions, ministers and some members of Parliament. No other candidate was named. Jumaliev's qualificatios were not discussed, nor was his program debated. Parliamentary deputies voted against each, noting there was simply no alternative candidate offered.

JumAliyev succeeds Apas Jumagulov, who submitted his resignation Tuesday. Jumagulov explained that his age was telling on his work, and, because further reform demanded fresh forces. Akayev accepted his resignation immediately, and appointed JumAliyev acting Prime Minister the same day.

Jumagulov remains a highly regarded figure in Kyrgyzstan politics, and he is expected to receive a state award, and be named an ambassador soon.

Jumagulov had been scheduled to report to Parliament this week on the company that handles Kyrgyzstan's gold sales.

Vecherni Bishkek daily had reported last week that Jumagulov was a founding member of the MTAK firm, registered in Austria in February 1997, and now handling the sale of Kyrgyz gold. According to the paper, the MTAK firm and some other western firms stand to make profits of up to $100 million over the next three years.

After Jumagulov resigned, Parliament decided that recent testimony he had offered parliamentary committees on the issue would be sufficient information from him.

Officials tell RFE/RL that they believe Jumagulov was forced to resign to prevent a possible scandal over gold sales.

New Prime Minister JumAliyev was appointed last January as Chairman of the National Commission on Combatting Poverty.

Jumaliev, 42, graduated from the Riazan Institute of Radio Engineering, in Russia in 1978 and worked in Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences in 1979-1992. He was a post-graduated student with Akayev in the 1980s, when Akayev was President of the Academy. JumAliyev served as the chairman of the Commitee on Science and High Technologies, and the First Deputy Minister of Education in 1992-1994. He was appointed Deputy State Secretary in March 1995, and then, in 1996, as head of the presidential administration.

JumAliyev accompanied President Akayev to the summit of the Central Asian Union in Tashkent today. Akayev will introduce his new Prime Minister to Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov and Tajikistan's Imomali Rakhmonov. After Tashkent, JumAliyev expected to lead a Kyrgyz governmental delegation to Germany to take part in an international conference on investments to Kyrgyzstan, set to be held in Berlin 30 March - 1 April.

The post of Prime Minister in Kyrgyzstan is largely ceremonial. According to the Constitution, adopted in 1993 and changed in a controversial referendum in 1996, a President has a right to appoint most government officials. However, a Prime Minister has to report to Parliament on activities of the government.

Parliamentary leaders have said that with Jumaliev's appointment, the government and presidential administration would now work in greater harmony.