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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-08

Kyrgyzstan's opposition on Thursday called for calm after at least 75 people were killed in violent protests. Roza Otunbayeva, who has been declared interim leader, said that fresh presidential elections would be held in six months.

AFP - The new rulers of Kyrgyzstan told toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to quit and announced the disbanding of parliament Thursday as they shored up diplomatic support after a bloody people's uprising.

Ex-foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, who has been declared interim leader, said Bakiyev had fled the capital and was trying to rally support in a southern stronghold after a revolt against his rule which left at least 75 people dead.

But she said that fresh presidential elections would be held in six months time as she secured support from the Russian government, still the key foreign player in the former Soviet republic which also hosts a US airbase.

A health ministry official told AFP 75 people had been killed and over 1,000 injured in the riots which swept the central Asian republic on Wednesday, although a senior opposition figure put the death toll at more than 100.

Kyrgyzstan has been plagued by corruption and chronic instability and Wednesday's uprising was the culmination of growing opposition anger fuelled by widespread fraud and irregularities in last year's presidential polls.

The riots were accompanied by looting, including of Bakiyev's residence where everything from radiators to plants was being pillaged on Thursday.

As UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced he was sending an envoy to the country, Otunbayeva appealed for calm and urged the armed forces, whose allegiances were not clear in the aftermath of the chaos Wednesday, to refrain from using force.

The exact whereabouts of Bakiyev, 60, were not immediately clear but reports from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia said he had sought safety near his traditional stronghold of Osh.

"The president is trying to consolidate his electorate in the south, in order to continue defending his positions," Otunbayeva said at a separate news conference. "The (interim government) insists that he stands down."

The parliament, she added, would be disbanded and the provisional government would temporarily perform the duties of both the president and parliament.

"Before the new parliament is elected the provisional government assumes its duties," Otunbayeva added.

"The full extent of power has been transferred to the provisional government," she said. The government will for now occupy the parliament building even though it was badly damaged in Wednesday's riots, she added.

Otunbayeva, designated the head of an interim government, said that a US airbase outside Bishkek which is seen as vital to the NATO campaign in nearby Afghanistan would remain open despite the shift in power.

"Nothing will be changed" in the agreement between the Bakiyev administration and the United States regarding the presence of the US airbase, Otunbayeva said.

But careful not to upset Moscow, she also spoke by phone with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who in turn offered aid.

"Putin noted that... Russia has always provided and remains ready to provide necessary humanitarian aid to the people of Kyrgyzstan," Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the powerful Russian premier, told AFP.

In fierce clashes between opposition protesters and security forces in Bishkek on Wednesday, witnesses said security forces had fired live bullets into the air as between 3,000 and 5,000 protestors overturned cars and set them on fire. Similar scenes were seen throughout the country.

Looters also ransacked the home of Bakiyev's family, enraged by evidence of the first family's lavish lifestyle in one of the poorest countries to have emerged from the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

Brandishing a torn photograph of Bakiyev's wife decked in oversized jewels, one man shouted bitter encouragement to the looters on Thursday morning.

"Look how the Bakiyevs lived! Look at all those diamonds, when the people barely have enough to live on," he said.

"The authorities robbed the people, now it's the people who are stripping the authorities," said Nurali Baimatovich, a school headmaster, as he watched the looters carry off their trophies.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the unrest was "an internal affair" but acknowledged the sense of popular resentment.

"This is Kyrgyzstan's internal affair, but the form the protest took showed ordinary people's extreme outrage at the existing regime," he said.



Date created : 2010-04-08


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