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Banned Turkmen Students To Attend U.S. University In Bulgaria

(RFE/RL) -- Turkmen students banned from studying at universities abroad are being allowed by the government to resume their studies at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG), RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan, who asked to remain anonymous, told RFE/RL that three Turkmen students went to Bulgaria on January 24, seven more the next day, and 39 students flew to Sofia today. Another student is due to leave Ashgabat for Bulgaria soon.

In August, Turkmen authorities abruptly prevented the 50 students returning from their summer vacations to go to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek to continue their studies. Turkmen officials said the AUCA curriculum does not correspond to Turkmen standards. The students then tried to transfer to the AUBG, but were prevented from boarding flights to Bulgaria on October 2 and 3.

The lifting of the ban on students came one day after a session of Turkmenistan's Security Council in which President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov harshly criticized the head of the State Migration Service and ordered him to "urgently improve the shortcomings" in the agency's work.

Classes for the spring semester at AUBG, located in the southwestern city of Blagoevgrad, began on January 18.