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6 Candidates Selected in Turkmenistan

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Official media Wednesday carried the biographies of six presidential candidates who will run in elections to succeed the Central Asian republic's late leader.

The People's Council, the country's highest legislative body, selected the candidates Tuesday, giving strong indications that its preferred choice for the Feb. 11 vote is acting President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.

The move dimmed hopes among exiled opposition leaders and human rights groups for reforms following the death last week of Saparmurat Niyazov, after 21 years of unchallenged rule. Niyazov, who called himself Turkmenbashi, or Father of All Turkmen, tolerated no dissent.

As interim leader, Berdymukhamedov was ineligible to run for president, but the Council, a 2,500-strong assembly of hand-picked officials and elders, removed the obstacle by changing the constitution, and unanimously backed his candidacy.

Before rising to acting president, Berdymukhamedov, 49, served as deputy prime minister.

The other candidates are Ishanguly Nuryyev, 51, who from 2005 has served as deputy minister of oil and gas; Ashyrniyaz Pomanov, 44, mayor of the town of Turkmenbashi; Mukhammednazar Gurbanov, head of the Karabekaul district; Orazmyrad Garadzhayev, 46, mayor of the town of Abadan; and Amanyaz Atadzhikov, 59, deputy governor of the northern Dashoguz region.

Election chief Murad Kariyev promised Tuesday that he would "do everything" to make sure Berdymukhamedov wins "because he is a worthy candidate."

(The Moscow Times 28.xii.06)

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