Turkmenistan's Leader Dies, State Television Announces

Associated Press
Thursday, December 21, 2006

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, Dec. 21 -- Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has died, Turkmen state television reported Thursday.

State television showed Niyazov's portrait in a black frame and a presenter read off his achievements.

The Turkmen leader, who has ruled the energy-rich Central Asian nation since 1985 when it was a Soviet republic, created an elaborate personality cult, renaming months and days in the calendar after himself and his family, and ordering statues of him to be erected throughout the desert nation.

In 1997, Niyazov underwent major heart surgery in a German clinic and last month he for the first time acknowledged publicly that he had heart disease.

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