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Turkmenistan Denies Entry To Peace Corps Volunteers

ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan has denied entry to dozens of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Acting Country Director Christopher Leal told RFE/RL that 47 Peace Corps volunteers scheduled to come to Turkmenistan on September 30 were told the day before boarding a plane in Philadelphia that they would not be allowed to enter Turkmenistan if they traveled there.

Leal said the organization did not receive an official explanation from the Turkmen government about the decision.

He said all of the volunteers had letters of invitation, visas, and plane tickets.

Leal said the volunteers have been invited by the Turkmen government to come next year, but that Turkmen officials were reportedly "not able to accommodate [them]" this year.

The Peace Corps has been operating in Turkmenistan since 1993 and currently has 70 volunteers in the country.

The decision to bar the Peace Corps workers from entering Turkmenistan comes after Turkmen students were prevented from traveling to U.S.-linked universities in Kyrgyzstan and Bulgaria last week.

Leal said a meeting between officials from the Peace Corps and Turkmen officials in Turkmenistan was canceled. But he said he hopes corps officials will be able to meet next week.