Ousted Kyrgyz President will quit if given safety guarantees

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Kyrgyzstan's ousted President yesterday said he would give up power peacefully if the country's interim government gave guarantees of security to him and his family.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who has been holed up in the south of the country after last week's riots in the capital Bishkek, had previously promised "a great deal of bloodshed" if the new government moves against him and said he had no intention of resigning. Yesterday, however, he appeared to soften his tone. He told reporters in his home village of Teyyit that he would consider resigning as long as certain conditions were met.

"I believe first and foremost if there is a guarantee that the roaming of these armed people ends in Kyrgyzstan, that... this armed free-for-all stops," said Mr Bakiyev when asked what was needed for him to resign. Secondly, if my personal security and that of my family and my relatives is guaranteed."

The Central Asian state has been in turmoil since riots left 82 people dead and hundreds injured last week, forcing the President to flee.

The interim government, led by former ambassador to Britain Roza Otunbayeva says it is preparing a "special operation" against the former President but has made several hints that he would be allowed to leave the country. "His stay in Kyrgyzstan is posing a problem for the nation's future," Ms Otunbayeva told the Associated Press yesterday. "It's becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee his security as people are demanding to bring him to justice."

On the streets of Bishkek, the population was adamant that Mr Bakiyev must be punished. "Lots of people have died. He has to be arrested," said Bakay Kartayeva, a headscarfed pensioner.

"Bakiyev has no conscience. He put all the money in his pockets, and didn't care about the city or the people," agreed 40-year-old Kadyrbek Kermaliyev, a former soldier. "He has to be arrested and given a life sentence."

It is unclear whether any country would accept the former President, but Ms Otunbayeva suggested he might join his sons, who are thought to be in Latvia. Ms Otunbayeva also said that the lease on a key US military base on the outskirts of Bishkek would be "automatically extended" when it runs out in July.