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Bakiyev takes oath of office in Kyrgyzstan
by Kadyr Toktogulov

The Associated Press    Translate This Article
14 August 2005

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) - Kyrgystan's new president pledged in his inaugural speech Sunday that the former Soviet Central Asian nation, which hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases, will pursue an independent foreign policy under his leadership.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former opposition leader who has been acting president since coming to power during a March 24 popular uprising, won a landslide victory in a July 10 election.

Kyrgyzstan hosts about 1,000 U.S.-led troops to support combat operations in Afghanistan—the presence of which became an issue after neighboring Uzbekistan demanded last month the U.S. troops pull out within 180 days.

After his election, Bakiyev said the necessity of the U.S. base in his country should be discussed. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later won assurances from Kyrgyz officials that American troops can stay for as long as they are needed to bring stability to Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian military base just 20 miles from the U.S. base.

``Kyrgyzstan won't become a place for the fulfillment of someone else's geopolitical interests,'' Bakiyev said in his inauguration speech without naming any nation in particular. ``We respect interests of other nations, but interests of our own people and state, freedom and independence of Kyrgyzstan are predominant for us.''

Kyrgyzstan faces pressure from Russia and China, which have been increasingly uneasy about the U.S. military presence in strategically placed, resource-rich Central Asia. Moscow and Beijing dominate the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security grouping that includes Kyrgyzstan and three other ex-Soviet Central Asian nations. The SCO demanded last month that the United States set a date for its withdrawal from Central Asia.

Foreign guests attending Bakiyev's inauguration included U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, SCO's executive secretary, Zhang Deguang of China, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and senior officials from Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.

Western observers praised the Kyrgyz presidential vote, saying it was an improvement over parliamentary elections earlier this year that triggered the uprising that ousted longtime President Askar Akayev who fled to Russia.

``We have defended and consolidated democracy,'' Bakiyev told a crowd of about 5,000 after taking presidential oath at the Kyrgyz capital's central square. ``It's your victory, the victory of the entire people.''

Bakiyev won 89 percent of the vote after he struck a deal with Felix Kulov, a popular former security chief who spent five years in prison under Akayev and was seen as Bakiyev's only realistic challenger for the presidency.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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