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Turkmenistan to Set Presidential Election Date


Turkmenistan's acting president says officials will announce Tuesday a date for elections to choose a successor to the late President Saparmurat Niyazov.

In a televised address Friday, interim leader Kurbanguli Berdymukhamedov said the People's Council will meet to set a date and approve candidates for the post.

Berdymukhamedov was named interim president Thursday after the death of President Niyazov, who ruled the Central Asian nation for 21 years.

Restaurants and other businesses were closed Friday to mark the official mourning period. A funeral for Mr. Niyazov is set for Sunday.

The 66-year-old authoritarian president did not designate a successor, raising concerns about a struggle for power in the gas-rich nation.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the United States will work with the interim government in Ashgabat.

Under the constitution, the parliament speaker, Overzgeldy Atayev, was to assume the Turkmen presidency. But officials said he is not eligible because he is facing a criminal probe.

The press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, called on the interim government to free journalists and human rights activists in the nation.

Under Mr. Niyazov, the Turkmen government was repeatedly criticized for its treatment of political opponents and religious minorities.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.