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Kyrgyz Rivals Striving for Calm

From Associated Press

President Askar A. Akayev said Tuesday that he would not impose a state of emergency, despite protests calling for his resignation over allegations of fraud in parliamentary elections.

A day after stone-throwing demonstrators stormed government buildings in southern Kyrgyzstan to push their demand that he resign, opposition supporters and police formed joint patrols in the southern city of Osh.

But there were reports today that protesters had seized another administration building in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Accounts of the seizure of the Kadamjay district administration building Tuesday evening varied.

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Interior Ministry spokesman Nurdin Zhangarayev said about 300 protesters forced their way into the building in the town of Pulgon. He said he did not know whether they were armed.

An opposition spokesman in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, Narynbek Kasymov, said that about 600 protesters had peacefully taken control of the building, and that police had gone over to their side.

Politics in Kyrgyzstan are heavily clan-based, and Akayev has strong support in his native northern region. If the fractured opposition coalesced enough to carry protests across the mountain range bisecting the country and toward the capital, Bishkek, tension could increase significantly. The United States and Russia have military bases in the country.

Protests against Akayev began after the first round of parliamentary elections Feb. 27 and grew after the March 13 runoffs, which the opposition and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said were seriously flawed.

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Akayev, 60, has been president of Kyrgyzstan for almost 15 years and is prohibited from seeking another term. The opposition has accused him of manipulating the vote to gain a compliant legislature that would amend the constitution to allow him a third term. Akayev has denied the allegations.

In an address to parliament a day after opposition protesters took control of Osh, the country’s second-largest city, and several other towns in the impoverished south, Akayev said their action was “a direct threat to the people and the government.”

Police and opposition representatives began joint patrols of Osh on Monday night, Police Col. Ermekbai Kochorov said.

Despite speculation that he would introduce emergency rule, Akayev said he was “fully committed to not taking such measures.”

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In Bishkek, several busloads of Interior Ministry troops and riot police were guarding the main square, next to the president’s office and other government buildings, where several hundred pro-Akayev protesters gathered.


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