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Kyrgystan Government Changes Generate International Reactions

For the third time in the past 18 months, a popular revolt in a former Soviet republic has toppled the government.

One day after protesters in Kyrgyzstan seized control of the presidential and government headquarters, President Askar Akayev has apparently fled the country. The main opposition leader claims he is now in power.

But Friday, the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Mr. Akayev as saying he is temporarily staying outside Kyrgyzstan, and has not resigned his post.

Opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev emerged from the parliament building in Bishkek's central square, and told supporters that lawmakers had named him the acting prime minister and acting president.

His appointment was endorsed by a newly restored parliament, comprised of lawmakers who held seats before this year's disputed elections, which fueled the uprising against the Akayev government.

After the parliament meeting, Mr. Bakiyev told reporters he would seek to form a cabinet immediately. He also said he would fight corruption -- the major complaint against the Akayev regime.

Speaking to reporters in Armenia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would grant exile to Mr. Akayev, if he sought to come to Russia. Mr. Putin said he hoped opposition leaders would re-establish order as soon as possible.

He also praised the new Kyrgyz leaders, saying they had helped develop ties between Bishkek and Moscow.

In Washington Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on all sides in the region to move forward peacefully toward a stable government. "The Kyrgyz people have a desire and an aspiration for freedom and democracy, as do people around the world."

But one of the first challenges the new leadership faces is curbing the violence that has overtaken Bishkek during the uprising.

Many people, including children, looted stores already gutted by fires. One lawmaker, Timir Sariyev, says at least three people were killed and dozens injured.