Nursultan Nazarbayev gathers new Cabinet

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's new Cabinet will retain his defense, interior and foreign affairs ministers, his office said Thursday. Nazarbayev was re-elected by a landslide on Dec. 4 in a vote that was criticized by Western observers and the opposition as flawed. The veteran leader signed decrees Wednesday appointing 12 of the 16 Cabinet ministers, the president's press office said. The finance and information ministries got new bosses, it said. Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev, Interior Minister Baurzhan Mukhamedjanov and Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev kept their jobs. Parliament Wednesday backed Nazarbayev's proposal to keep Daniyal Akhmetov as the energy-rich Central Asian nation's prime minister. Akhmetov, 51, has headed the ex-Soviet republic's Cabinet since 2003.

Nazarbayev's chief aide Karim Masimov was appointed first deputy prime minister. On Thursday, Nazarbayev filled the four remaining Cabinet posts, replacing Oil Minister Vladimir Shkolnik with his first deputy Baktykozha Izmukhambetov. Shkolnik, who headed the key Oil Ministry since 1999, was appointed industry and trade minister. The president requires parliamentary approval only for his choices of prime minister and ministers in charge of the social and economic sectors. Effective market reforms and generous foreign investment in the vast energy sector has helped make Kazakhstan is one of the most economically successful post-Soviet nations, with annual economic growth of almost 10 percent over the past several years, reports the AP. N.U.