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Annexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1925. It achieved its independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
President NIYAZOV retains absolute control over the country and opposition is not tolerated. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a boon to
this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects can be worked out.
Update No: 256 - (23/04/02)
The Turkmen regime is unsettled. President Saparmurat Nhyazov is looking for scapegoats for his own egregious errors. He is a blunderer of the first
Reshuffle of top personnel
He is carrying out a thorough purge of top officials in the security services and border control apparatus. This is partly a reaction to the widening
discontent with his dictatorial regime, and partly an act of revenge against defectors to the growing opposition.
In early March Mukhammed Nazarov was relieved of his post as chief legal advisor to the president and coordinator of law enforcement and the military. Two of
his deputies shared his own fate, on grounds of "serious mismanagement in their work, and inability to perform their duties."
A few days later Niyazov dismissed the head of the Border Guards Service.
An increasing number of top-level Turkmen politicians are coming out in opposition to the Niyazov regime. The most prominent politician to join the opposition
is Boris Shikhuradov, the former foreign minister and ambassador to China. Another is the former ambassador to Turkey, Nurmuhammed Hanamov, who announced his
defection earlier this year.
Others include former chairman of the central bank and deputy premier, Khundai Orazov, and the ambassador to the Arab Emirates, Pirjan Kurbanov.
Orazov accuses Niyazov of fixing the figures, which as central bank chief he was able to see at first hand. This is a plausible claim and endorsed by
independent observers. Moreover, the scale of corruption and chicanery is vast. Niyazov would cap interest rates and force the central bank to make loans to
state firms run by his cronies, in effect stealing from the public purse.
The opposition in Moscow calls itself the People's Democratic party of Turkmenistan. Orazov, like other defectors to the opposition, is open to the charge of
why he worked for a corrupt a regime for so long. He, like them, can reply that he wanted to reform it from within.
It is not just its corruption to which one can find objection, but also its incompetence. This is what is tipping things against Niyazov and might just topple
Energy deals awry
What all these figures feel is that Niyazov has bungled in a colossal way in his negotiations with Western energy firms. Instead of making sure that an
alternative route to Western markets than the Russian one was opened up via the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and beyond, he insisted on unrealistic conditions
and the deal fell through. Turkmenistan consequently remains totally in the Russian domain as regards its energy.
Ashkhabad prepares to export electricity to Afghanistan
Turkmenistan will spend US$520m on building electricity supply lines for export of Turkmen electricity to neighbouring Afghanistan. The agreement on the
construction of the lines was reached during the recent visit of the Afghan interim leader, Hamid Karzai, to Ashkhabad, New Europe reported.
The lines will be laid from the southern city of Mary to the northern Afghan cities of Shibirgan and Mazar-I-Sharif. Turkmenistan also intends to construct
power lines to supply electricity to the cities Kabul, Serkhetabad, Heart and Kandahar.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Prospects of Turkmen-Iranian cooperation on the cards
Turkmen President, Saparmyrat Turkmenbasy Nyazov, recently received the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Turkmenistan, Seyyed Ebrahim
Derazgisu. The meeting focused on issues relating to Iranian President, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami's forthcoming visit to Turkmenistan.
During a recent telephone conversation the presidents of the neighbouring states reached an agreement on the Iranian leader's official visit and
participation in the Caspian summit, reports New Europe. During the meeting, a detailed conversation was held about the current state and prospects of
economic cooperation between the two states as well as about the impact of Turkmen-Iranian cooperation on the development of regional partnership, especially
in such spheres as transport and the export of energy resources. In this context, the sides discussed a number of draft documents designed to strengthen
mutually advantageous cooperation and to give impetus to cooperation in various areas.
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