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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: 267 - (27/03/03)
The Turkmen republic was rocked by an unusual event last year on November 25th, which was nothing less than an assassination attempt on the life of the president, Saparmurat Niyazov. Some 50 suspects were rounded up, including some foreigners. But nothing more has been heard about the matter.
Some observers of the Turkmen scene suspected that the regime may have engineered the event itself. But there are plenty of people who hate Niyazov - and despise him to boot since he has the most ridiculous personality cult in the world now that Kim il Sung is dead. Even Saddam's is tepid by comparison.
That the attempt was genuine is suggested by a purge of the interior ministry and security forces, doubtless held to blame for it. He has also made the foreign minister, Rashid Meredov, deputy prime minister. He will head a commission that is to introduce and to monitor a stricter visa regime, designed to screen foreigners and Turkmen exiles entering the country. The implication of foreigners or returned exiles in the November attempt would seem to be indicated. At least such the regime fears.
Economic figures absurd
For an economy largely cut off from the rest of the world, Turkmenistan is reporting ridiculous figures. Industrial production supposedly rose 23% in January year-on-year, with engineering growing by 131% and chemicals 124%. This is all very silly and takes in nobody. It is on a par with the more absurd aspects of the personality cult, such as introduction of a new eight-month calendar or the claim that Niyazov is a great religious prophet on a par with Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed.
Both bread and the month of April have been renamed after Niyazov's mother. The dictator is obviously worried about his age, not just assassins. Old age has been abolished until one reaches 85, which gives Niyazov another twenty-five years of grace. The intervening quarter of a century has been renamed "the age of inspiration." He has certainly been inspired to some wild ideas in his own case.
He may never make it to old age. Another assassination attempt is on the cards at any time. Which will no doubt add to the present paranoia.
Leaders of Turkmenistan, Iran to discuss rise in gas exports
Turkmen President, Saparmyrat Nyyazow, was to visit Tehran on 10the March to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart President Mohammad Khatami, on gas deliveries and the legal status of the Caspian Sea, a source close to the Turkmen government told Interfax news Agency.
He said the main purposes of the visit are to consider an increase in Turkmen natural gas exports to north Iran and compare attitudes on the Caspian Sea status in 2002, gas exports along the 200-kilometre Korpeje-Kord Koy pipeline amounted to about 5bn cu.m. at the price of 42 dollars per 1,000 cu.m. This year exports are expected to rise to 7bn cu.m, and in the future to 13bn. Iran is the only importer of Turkmen gas fully paying for it in foreign currency, the source said.
The source added that Nyyazow and Khatami plan to exchange opinions on the construction of a pipeline for the delivery of oil from Kazakhstan to Iran via Turkmenistan.
Iranian companies are currently building liquefied gas terminals in the seaport of Turkmenbasy, as well as at Serhetabat and Sarahs railway stations. The construction of a dam on the Tejen River is another major joint project.
Last year, trade turnover between Turkmenistan and Iran stood at US$436m, and the balance of trade was US$280m in favour of Turkmenistan. In five years trade has skyrocketed almost six old. Iran is Turkmenistan's fourth biggest foreign trade partner.
Turkmenenergogurlushyk ends Afghan power line
Turkmen energy group, Turkmenenergogurlushyk, has completed the construction of power transmission line support structures on the first, 20-kilometre stretch of the Serkhetabad-Heart electric power line, being laid from the Afghan town of Turgundi. This 100-kilometre electric power line is to be built by November 2003. The project is being implemented under an intergovernmental agreement on energy cooperation, signed by Turkmenistan and Afghanistan in March 2002.
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