Thursday, December 21, 2006

Turkmenistan's 'iron ruler' dies


Turkmenistan's authoritarian president Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the Central Asian country for 21 years, has died aged 66, state TV has reported.
He was the centre of a personality cult with cities and airports named after him. He has no designated successor.

Turkmenistan has large gas reserves, but now faces an uncertain future as outside powers scramble for influence over resources, analysts say.

Mr Niyazov died of a sudden cardiac arrest, it was announced.

According to Turkmen law, the president is succeeded by the head of the legislative body, the People's Assembly. But this post was held by Mr Niyazov himself.

His funeral is set to take place on 24 December in the capital, Ashgabat.

Deputy Prime Minister Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was named head of the commission handling the funeral, state television said.

Last month, the president publicly acknowledged he had heart disease. .......

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