Azeri President flees capital

Azerbaijan's elected president, Abulfaz Elchibey, fled his capital to escape a rebel uprising yesterday, and a veteran Communist leader, Geidar Aliyev, said he was taking power in the former Soviet republic, Reuter reports from Baku.

President Elchibey flew south-west to the Azeri enclave of Nakhichevan to avert an armed confrontation and for his personal safety, his press office announced. Mr Aliyev, a former Soviet politburo member who took over as chairman of parliament as the Azeri political crisis deepened this week, declared on national television that he was replacing Mr Elchibey as head of state. Mr Aliyev said that Mr Elchibey had not been forced from office and added: 'At this difficult moment, I think the President should not have left us.' Azerbaijan has been thrown into turmoil by a rebel uprising led by Suret Guseinov, whose forces have advanced to within about 75 miles of the capital. The rebels, who support Mr Aliyev, demanded Mr Elchibey's resignation over a series of Azeri defeats at Armenian hands over the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh.