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Azerbaijan: Ilham Aliyev Steps Down As Premier To Run For President

Baku, 6 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Newly confirmed Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev is taking a leave of absence from his post so that he can legally run for president. In a press release issued today, Aliyev says he is delegating authority immediately to his first deputy, Artur Rasizade. Rasizade had served as prime minister until 4 August, when Aliyev was elected in an emergency session.

Aliyev says he is stepping down because the Election Code of Azerbaijan prohibits a serving prime minister from running for president.

Aliyev's appointment as prime minister was believed to have paved the way for him to succeed his ailing father, President Heidar Aliyev, in the top job. Under the Azerbaijani Constitution, the prime minister stands in for the head of state -- pending new elections -- should he be unable to fulfill his official functions.

The 80-year-old president is on his way today to the U.S. for medical treatment. He reportedly left a military hospital in Ankara today and is flying to a clinic in the U.S. city of Cleveland.