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Updated: April 12, 2010 19:26 IST

Kyrgyzstan’s deposed president gathers supporters

AP
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Kyrgyzstan's deposed President Kurmanbek Mr. Bakiyev prays during a meeting in the village of Teyit, in Jalal-Abad region in southern Kyrgyzstan, on Monday. Photo: AP.
Kyrgyzstan's deposed President Kurmanbek Mr. Bakiyev prays during a meeting in the village of Teyit, in Jalal-Abad region in southern Kyrgyzstan, on Monday. Photo: AP.

Kyrgyzstan’s deposed president on Monday rallied supporters in his home village, testing his ability to mount resistance to the opposition forces that drove him out of the capital last week.

As about 500 people gathered in a muddy field in Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s native village of Teyit, the deputy head of the self-declared interim government said in the capital that an operation to arrest Mr. Bakiyev was being organized.

“Just let him try. If he does, much blood will be shed,” Mr. Bakiyev told reporters who asked him about the statement by Almazbek Atambayev.

Mr. Atambayev did not give details about the arrest plans, but said “we do not want fresh bloodshed.”

At least 81 people died in the capital last Wednesday when a confrontation between police and protesters exploded into gunfire and chaos. Protesters stormed government buildings and Mr. Bakiyev fled to his native southern region.

He has refused to step down and the rally in Teyit brought an array of speakers who vowed their support and waved banners with slogans such as “Hands off the legitimate president.”

There were no uniformed police in view at the rally, and the loyalty of the country’s security forces remains a significant question.

The stalemate has left Kyrgyzstan’s near-term stability in doubt. That worries the West because a U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan is crucial in the military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The base is used both as the launch point for refuelling flights over Afghanistan and as a troop transit point. Troop transit flights had been diverted for several days, but the U.S. Embassy said Monday those flights have returned to normal operation and that the refuelling flights are continuing.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake is to travel to Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday for talks including the base status.

Mr. Atambayev, echoing previous statements by interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva, said the base’s status will be discussed with the United States and “we shall decide everything in a civilized way.”

Many Kyrgyz oppose the base and Mr. Atambayev expressed deep ambivalence.

“This base is our common cause to provide stability in Afghanistan,” he said. But then he launched into criticism of the United States for allegedly cutting deals with Mr. Bakiyev’s family for contracts at the base.

Alleged corruption by members of the Bakiyev family, including enriching themselves through fuel contracts for the base, was one of the top issues that brought out protesters last week.

“While trying to preserve the base, you lost the respect of the people,” Mr. Atambayev said of the United States.

Mr. Bakiyev told The Associated Press in an interview on Sunday that he had not ordered police to fire at protesters in the capital.

“My conscience is clear,” he said.

He strongly urged the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to Kyrgyzstan, arguing that the nation’s police and the military are too weak to keep the unrest from spreading.

“The people of Kyrgyzstan are very afraid,” Mr. Bakiyev said. “They live in terror.”

Ms. Otunbayeva, after a meeting on Monday with European Union representatives, said “We are in a rather rigid and delicate situation: people in the street demand revenge, they are ready to go there and deal with him shortly, but we’ll be cautious as far as the forceful scenario is concerned and won’t allow new victims.”

In taking power on Thursday, the interim leaders said they controlled four of Kyrgyzstan’s seven regions. By Saturday they claimed to have expanded their control throughout the country.

The interim leadership on Monday announced the dismissal of Kyrgyzstan’s ambassadors to the United States, Germany, Russia and Turkey. But the ambassador to Russia, Raimkul Attakurov, rejected the order, telling the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that he would leave only on Mr. Bakiyev’s order.

Kyrgyzstan’s society is strongly clan-based, but there are few signs that Mr. Bakiyev could muster any significant tribal support in the south to challenge the self-declared interim government. Some analysts say that a hike in utility prices and massive corruption has set many southerners against Mr. Bakiyev.

Keywords: Political upheaval

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