Foreign envoys arrive in Kyrgyzstan to help stabilize nation

Kyrgyzstan's new leadership on Thursday began welcoming a string of foreign envoys arriving here to offer their help in stabilizing this ex-Soviet republic after last week's chaotic and violent ouster of longtime President Askar Akayev.

The visits come a day after interim leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev told Akayev that he was not welcome to return yet, warning that the ousted leader's arrival could cause more unrest and that the new government could not guarantee his safety.

Akayev fled this mountainous Central Asian nation last week after violent protests, and hinted in a television interview in Russia this week that he might be willing to formally resign if he received security guarantees from the new Kyrgyz parliament. He also said he wanted to come home.

Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, however, said Akayev's return could "give rise to mass unrest" in this impoverished country, which is home to a U.S. military base involved in the war in Afghanistan and a Russian base.

"The heat of passion has not subsided," Bakiyev added during a live television call-in show on Wednesday, his first major remarks to the nation of 5 million people.

The new Kyrgyz authorities, however, are eager to secure Akayev's resignation to give legitimacy to the nation's interim leadership.

Parliament Speaker Omurbek Tekebayev - the one person Akayev has said he is willing to negotiate with - said Thursday that he needs "a mandate from parliament" to hold talks with the ousted leader. He said the only issue up for negotiations is the transfer of power.

Parliament on Thursday appointed lawmakers and representatives of Akayev's former government to a commission to define the framework for talks with Akayev.

In a meeting Thursday morning with the visiting chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Bakiyev pledged to continue the reforms set in place by the man he helped oust from power.

"All the principles which were established earlier in the Kyrgyz republic - this is democratic reforms, a market economy, defense of human rights - these will form the basis of our activity," Bakiyev told OSCE head, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

The OSCE, Europe's top security organization, has sought to play a leading international role in helping restore stability here after Akayev's ouster.

The foreign ministers from Ukraine and Georgia were expected here later Thursday to offer help to the new leadership. Over the past year and a half, those countries became the first two former Soviet republics where mass protests ushered the opposition into power.

The upheaval in Kyrgyzstan differed from the previous two because it was accompanied by violence and widespread looting. It also proceeded with a speed that took the fractured and disorganized opposition by surprise.

Kyrgyzstan's uprising was prompted by anger over this year's parliamentary elections, which the opposition said were rigged to fill the 75-member parliament with pro-Akayev lawmakers.

Bakiyev on Monday agreed to recognize that body, which is now led by a former opposition leader.

Bakiyev also had talks scheduled Thursday with a delegation of Russian lawmakers and representatives of Russia's Emergency Situations and Agriculture ministries, who traveled to Kyrgyzstan to discuss offers of aid from President Vladimir Putin.

Kyrgyzstan has called new presidential elections for June 26. Bakiyev, an opposition leader who participated in last week's demonstrations, has said he intends to run. Another key opposition figure, Felix Kulov, also has been tipped as a possible contender. Kulov resigned as coordinator of law enforcement agencies Wednesday, saying he succeeded in bringing order back to Bishkek's streets.

MARA D. BELLABY Associated Press Writer

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