Protesters gather in Mongolian capital calling for president's retirement

Some 1,500 protesters gathered in Mongolia's capital Tuesday to call for the resignation of the president and an end to corruption in the impoverished country. The three-hour demonstration was the latest in a string of rallies since the ruling coalition government collapsed earlier this month after Mongolia's biggest political party withdrew. Tuesday's gathering by the Mongolian Democratic Union was mostly peaceful, with organizers playing the sound of bells on megaphones representing a rallying cry for freedom and protesters holding up banners. One said "Let us unite against corruption" while another called for the dismissal of President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and decried him as "the destroyer of Mongolian national unity."

Enkhbayar belongs to the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, which pulled out of the government with complaints that Prime Minister Tsakhilganiin Elbegdorj had not done enough to fight corruption and worsening poverty in this former Soviet satellite.

The MPRP, one seat short of a majority in parliament, has urged the other parties to join it in forming a new government and has nominated its chairman, Mieagombo Enkhbold, as prime minister.

Enkhbayar is scheduled to approve the nominee by Wednesday. Mongolia, a landlocked Central Asian nation flanked by Russia and China, used to be dependent on subsidies from Moscow and has seen its economy weaken precipitously since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Peaceful protests in 1990 forced the pro-Soviet People's Revolutionary Party to drop communism and allow multiparty elections in Mongolia. The reformist Democratic Union swept into office in a 1996 parliamentary election that marked the end of the 75-year rule of the PRP.

"Our Democratic Union has for some time been very inactive," said protester Sukhbataar, a former teacher who is now unemployed. "Now, we are back in the political scene. ... We will fight for what we used to demonstrate for in the beginning of the 1990s."

The demonstrators also called for an increase of monthly pension levels and minimum salaries for doctors, teachers and civil servants by the first half of 2006. Additionally, they said they wanted international experts to solve the 1998 assassination of S. Zorig, a popular figure who played a leading role in the 1990 democratic revolution. Zorig, then a potential candidate for prime minister, was axed and stabbed to death at his home. The reason for the murder was never established, reports the AP. N.U.

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