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Leader of Turkmenistan Buried After Elaborate Funeral


The authoritarian leader of Turkmenistan, Separmurat Niyazov, was interred in an ornate family mausoleum in his native village of Kipchak today, concluding an elaborate state funeral.

The 66-year-old president, who preferred to be called "Turkmenbashi" or "Father of all Turkmen," died of a heart attack Thursday without leaving a clear successor.

Tens of thousands of mourners filed past his open casket at his palace in the capital city of Ashgabat. After the viewing, the casket was put on a trailer and towed by an armored personnel carrier to Kipchak, about ten kilometers away.

Dignitaries from foreign governments attended the funeral.

Among them was Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who said afterwards he hoped for a peaceful transition of power in Turkmenistan. He also said he hoped for "a new beginning" in the relationship between Turkmenistan and the U.S.

Turkmenistan's acting president Kurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, who was deputy prime minister said Friday that the People's Council will meet Tuesday to set a date for elections to choose a successor to the late president.

Under the country's constitution, the parliament speaker should have become the acting president. But officials blocked that by starting a criminal probe against him within hours of the president's death.

Mr. Niyazov built a cult of personality that went so far as to rename the month of January for himself and the month of April for his mother.

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 AFP, AP and Reuters.