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Kyrgyz President Says He Is 'Not Fighting' With His Predecessor

Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov (left) shakes hands with former President Almazbek Atambaev in Bishkek on November 24, 2017.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov says he is not "fighting" with his predecessor, Almazbek Atambaev.

Speaking to journalists at his first annual meeting with the media as president, Jeenbekov said on December 19 that his major goal is "nothing but to work day and night for our people and our country."

Answering a question about an ongoing standoff between him and Atambaev, Jeenbekov said, "I am not fighting anyone."

"I do not consider anyone a rival, as I am the president and I can only have rivals during the election," Jeenbekov said.

Jeenbekov and Atambaev, former close allies, have been at odds recently.

Limited to a single six-year term by the constitution, Atambaev tapped his prime minister, Jeenbekov, as his favored successor in the October 2017 presidential election. But the two in recent months have accused each other of a lack of professionalism.

Earlier this year, some politicians and lawmakers called for an investigation into some of Atambaev's decisions while in office.

Several of his close allies have been arrested on suspicion of corruption.

On December 13, the Kyrgyz parliament approved in a first reading a bill that would eliminate immunity for ex-presidents, potentially opening the path for Atambaev's prosecution.

Answering a question about the bill, Jeenbekov said that it is not targeted against Atambaev.

"The law granting immunity to ex-presidents contradicts the constitution. The bill will affect me as well. I will also leave office in future. Everyone, including presidents, must remember about accountability for their deeds. No one can be above the law," Jeenbekov said.

In recent weeks, some members of the Atambaev-led Social Democratic Party (SDPK), of which Jeenbekov is also a member, started a campaign dubbed "SDPK Without Atambaev."

Jeenbekov told journalists that he had nothing to do with that.

"I was one of the founders of the party and it is painful for me to see what is going on there. One must look for the cause of the current situation within the party, not around Jeenbekov but in another place," Jeenbekov said.

He did not elaborate.

Jeenbekov said he will quit politics after his single presidential term ends in 2023.