Brezhnev man leads Azeris

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MOSCOW - A veteran of Leonid Brezhnev's Politburo, ousted by Mikhail Gorbachev, made an astonishing comeback yesterday when he was chosen to head parliament in the republic of Azerbaijan, writes Helen Womack. Discontent over the nationalist government's handling of the war with neighbouring Armenia propelled Geidar Aliyev, 70, back to a position of power.

The administration of President Abulfaz Elchibey, who took over from the Communists last year and chose to seek closer ties with Turkey rather than join the Commonwealth of Independent States, has been in trouble since March when Armenian fighters pushed beyond the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh into Azerbaijan. Christian Armenians now control one-tenth of Muslim Azerbaijan.

Enraged, Azeri rebels led by a former wool merchant, Suret Huseynov, seized Azerbaijan's second city, Gyandzha, in bloody battles this month and seemed set to drive to Baku to challenge Mr Elchibey. But Mr Aliyev stepped in as a peace-broker, met the rebels at the weekend and halted their advance.

Mr Elchibey offered Mr Aliyev the post of Prime Minister but he refused, as the job entails running the economy but gives little power. Mr Aliyev was nominated parliament chairman after Isa Gambarov resigned on Sunday, and yesterday won the support of 37 of the 50 deputies.