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Azerbaijan: Opposition Stages Largest Protest Rally In Two Years

Baku, 14 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Correspondents in Azerbaijan say opposition parties today staged their largest rally in two years to demand the resignation of President Heidar Aliev. The rally, which authorities allowed to be conducted in a remote part of the capital Baku, was called by the usually fractious opposition in the aftermath of a referendum last month that tightened the ailing president's grip on power in the oil-rich state. Correspondents say about 10,000 people attended today's event.

Opposition parties in Azerbaijan have been attempting for months to conduct protests in the center of Baku without official permission. Most of those earlier rallies have attracted relatively few demonstrators and have been quickly dispersed by police.

Official results from last months referendum show some 80 percent of voters supported changes to the 1995 constitution that expand Aliev's powers. But opposition parties allege that the results were falsified.

International observers noted numerous irregularities during the referendum vote.