New Kyrgyz interior minister says government can use force to restore order

Kyrgyzstan's new interior minister said Wednesday that the government may use force to restore order, issuing a stark warning to opposition groups that have seized key administration buildings in the south and are calling for the president's ouster.

"Our primary task is to restore constitutional order in all regions, but strictly in accordance with the constitution," Interior Minister Keneshbek Dushebayev said. "The law gives us every right to take action, including by using physical force, special means and firearms."

Dushebayev, speaking hours after being appointed interior minister after President Askar Akayev fired his predecessor, emphasized that "we will never shoot law-abiding, peaceful citizens: women, children and old people."

However, he said opposition forces in the south had broken many laws and vowed that in restoring order, "We are going to use the whole arsenal of legally available means."

"If we let allow the country to be split and if we allow civil war, our people and history will not forgive us," Dushebayev said.

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