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Turkmen President Dies at Age 66


Turkmenistan – Niyazov Obit: Turkmenistan's authoritarian president, Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the gas-rich Central Asian country for two decades, has died at the age of 66.
State media say Mr. Niyazov died early today (Thursday) of sudden heart failure. His funeral will be held on Sunday.
Government officials say Turkmenistan's deputy prime minister (Kurbanguli Berdymukhamedov) has been named acting president.
President Niyazov led Turkmenistan since 1985 while it was a part of the Soviet Union -- and retained control when it became an independent nation in 1991. His hand-picked People's Council proclaimed him president for life in 1999.
Known as Turkmenbashi or Chief of the Turkmens, Mr. Niyazov resisted democratic and economic reforms and cracked down on dissent after an alleged assassination attempt in 2002.
The Turkmen leader enjoyed unlimited powers and a flourishing personality cult. His Democratic Party is the only registered political party. The government said today all domestic and foreign policies of Turkmenistan will be maintained.

Iraq: Iraqi police say a suicide bomber has blown himself up at a police recruitment center in Baghdad, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 15 others.
Authorities say the attacker, believed to have been wearing an explosive vest, detonated the charge outside the police center early today (Thursday).
Meanwhile, the new U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, who is currently visiting Baghdad, has been discussing a possible increase in the number of American troops in the country.
Gates met today with a group of American soldiers. Some of them expressed support for more ground troops, saying that it will allow more time to train the Iraqi army.
Gates met with U.S. military commanders and Iraqi officials Wednesday, and more talks are planned for today.

Iran Elections: Opponents of Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have won nationwide municipal elections held last week.
Final results announced today (Thursday) by Iran's interior ministry show moderate conservatives opposed to the president won a majority of the seats in city councils, followed by reformists.
In Tehran, moderate conservatives won eight of the 15 seats in the council. Reformists captured four, Mr. Ahmadinejad's allies won two, and an independent candidate won one seat.
Moderate conservatives also did well in elections for the powerful Assembly of Experts, a conservative body of clerics that monitors Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor.
Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- an opponent of Mr. Ahmadinejad -- won his re-election to the assembly with a huge margin.

Nigeria – Attack: Nigerian police say armed men have attacked a Nigerian oil installation owned by France's Total group, killing three people.
Police said the attack happened early today (Thursday) in Nigeria's southern Rivers state.
On Monday, militants detonated two car bombs in the city of Port Harcourt at compounds run by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian company Agip.
Attacks by militants and kidnappers have cut Nigeria's oil production by up to 25 percent over the past year.
The country normally pumps two-and-a-half million barrels of oil a day. The loss of production is among the factors keeping world oil prices high at over 60 dollars a barrel.

Thailand Stock Market: Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont is defending his government's brief imposition of tough capital controls that sparked a 15-percent plunge in the stock market Tuesday.
Mr. Surayud says the measures (announced Monday) were necessary to deter currency speculators from driving up the value of the Thai baht.
Thailand's government lifted capital controls on stock investments late Tuesday, hours after the stock market suffered its worst-ever single-day loss. But, authorities maintained new restrictions on foreign investment in bonds.
Analysts and foreign investors criticized the moves, saying they caused confusion about Thailand's economic policies.

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