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Turkmenistan: Government Demands U.S. Extradite Former Minister

Ashgabat, 12 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Turkmenistan has demanded that the United States extradite former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, who has been charged in Turkmenistan with illegal arms dealing and embezzlement. Shikhmuradov, who is now a leading pro-democracy activist and opponent of President Saparmurat Niyazov's rule, has dismissed the charges against him as politically motivated.

A statement from the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency, says the U.S. ambassador to Ashgabat, Laura Kennedy, has twice been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to hear demands that the United States hand over Shikhmuradov.

The statement said the Turkmen government has a "total lack of understanding" of why the U.S. government has allowed Shikhmuradov to stay freely on U.S. territory.

The Foreign Ministry statement said Turkmenistan and the United States have been developing ties in various areas, including in the fight against international terrorism.