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Kyrgyz Leader Hints at Plot by West

President Says Revolt Led by Same Forces as in Ukraine, Georgia

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page A11

MOSCOW, March 22 -- President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan reacted defiantly Tuesday to anti-government protests that have swept the south of the Central Asian republic, charging in a speech to parliament that the "opposition is directed and funded from the outside."

He did not name the alleged foreign backers. But analysts said Akayev was voicing widespread suspicion among governments in the former Soviet republics that the recent popular revolts in Ukraine, Georgia and now Kyrgyzstan stem from Western, particularly U.S., efforts to install friendly leaders under the guise of building democracy.

"The events in Kyrgyzstan are not isolated from any of the so-called color revolutions that have been staged in other . . . countries over the last 18 months," Akayev said in a reference to the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia and last year's Orange Revolution in Ukraine. "Such revolutions, which are nothing more than coups, go beyond the framework of the law."

U.S. and European officials have dismissed such charges, saying that they have provided funding to nongovernmental organizations and in support of the elections in countries in the region but that they have not backed particular candidates or parties.

On Sunday and Monday, thousands of protesters, some of them armed with Molotov cocktails and clubs, seized government buildings in Osh, the country's second-largest city, and Jalal-Abad, as well as some smaller towns. Opposition leaders claimed they restored order Tuesday in Osh and initiated joint patrols by their supporters and police.

A spokesman for Akayev told the Associated Press that "criminal elements connected to the drug mafia are in complete control of the situation in Osh and Jalal-Abad, and are struggling to gain power." The city, along the fabled Silk Road, is regarded as a transit point for drugs from Afghanistan.

In his speech, the president repeated declarations that he would not use violence to put down the protests.

The capital, Bishkek, which is in the north, remained quiet. Interior Ministry troops and riot police took up positions around government buildings, according to local news organizations. There were reports that some opposition supporters had left Osh in buses to organize protests in the capital.

In a rally in the north, 2,000 people gathered in the town of Talas late Monday to demand the "creation of a government of people's trust," according to news reports. Some protesters pitched tents in the town's central square in a nod to the tent city that was erected in Independence Square in Kiev last year.

Akayev, 60, spoke Tuesday to government deputies in the newly convened parliament. Opposition parties, which won only six seats in the body after two rounds of voting that ended March 13, said the protests were triggered by widespread ballot fraud. Among those elected were Akayev's son and daughter.

Opposition leaders have demanded Akayev's resignation, saying they believe he will use an overwhelming majority in parliament to extend his rule beyond the two terms allowed by the constitution. Presidential elections are scheduled for October, and Akayev has said he does not plan to run again.

On Monday, Akayev called for the Central Elections Commission and the country's Supreme Court to examine some of the results contested by the opposition.

Sulaiman Imanbayev, head of the commission, said Tuesday that results in 71 of the country's 75 electoral districts were legitimate. He said another vote would be required in one district and that disputed results in three other districts would be settled in court.

Anvar Artykov, who has declared himself the governor of Osh, ruled out any compromise. "The only compromise would be guaranteeing his safety after his resignation," he said of Akayev.

Akayev, speaking on television, was equally dismissive. "The people who set themselves up as leaders of the opposition cannot formulate acceptable conditions for talks," he said. "As far as my resignation is concerned, a decision on this is not to be taken by rallies. . . . This can be taken only by the people or parliament."

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