Kyrgyzstan's new rulers round up Bakiyev's backers

Kyrgyzstan's interim rulers moved to consolidate power in the strategic Central Asian nation today, issuing arrest warrants against supporters of the country's deposed president.

The ousted leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has resigned and fled to neighbouring Kazakhstan, easing tensions that threatened to boil over into civil war in the volatile Central Asian state.

Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous Muslim country of 5.3 million, hosts a crucial US air base and the turmoil disrupted US military flights to operations in nearby Afghanistan for days.

The new government, which has warm relations with Russia while consisting of many pro-Western liberals, says it would maintain balance its ties with regional powers and vowed to bring Bakiyev and his allies to justice.

Azimbek Beknazarov, an interim vice premier in charge of security, said arrest warrants had been issued for a dozen Bakiyev allies and family members including brother Zhanybek, the former head of the presidential guards.

"He (Zhanybek) has not surrendered... there will not be any use of force," said Beknazarov, who indicated the new leaders knew where Zhanybek was. "We will use only diplomacy."

A Reuters reporter at Bakiyev's home village of Teyyit, where Zhanybek Bakiyev is believed to be, saw military helicopters hovering above the area. Additional checkpoints and security had sprung up around the village.