Turkmenistan's President &to=http://english.pravda.ru/cis/2002/08/08/34059.html' target=_blank>Saparmurat Niyazov on Friday appointed a new oil and gas minister and ordered him to learn English in six months or be sacked.
Niyazov, who rules the Central Asian nation with an iron fist, told the new minister, former oil ministry official Gurbanmurad Atayev, that English was essential to the post, given the number of foreign delegations interested in Turkmenistan's vast natural gas wealth.
"If you can't get around without a translator, then you can't be minister. You need to argue, decide, know. Therefore, if you want to study on your own, learn at home at nights so that you know the language," Niyazov said in comments on state-run television.
Niyazov, who speaks Russian and Turkmen but whose grasp of English was not immediately known, has banned all opposition and controls all branches of government and the media. Golden statues and busts of the president are scattered across the country, and his portrait is on every bank note and coin.
In Monday, he ordered construction of a university to be named after his book "Rukhnama," which is held as a sacred text in this ex-Soviet republic and is mandatory reading for every Turkmen at schools and workplaces.