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Sunday, July 19, 1998 Published at 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Central Asia's 'perfect couple' wed

Aidar Akiyev and his well-connected Kazakh bride, Aliya Nazarbayeva

It sounds like something from the Middle Ages - a ruler marrying off his son to the scion of the ruling dynasty of a more powerful neighbour.

BBC correspondent Louise Hidalgo talks of the blood link between two countries
But the rulers in question are not 13th century monarchs but the democratically-elected presidents of two former Soviet republics.

This weekend - for in Central Asia weddings are cause for lengthy celebrations - Aidar Akayev, son of the president of Kyrgyzstan, married Aliya Nazarbayeva, whose father Nursultan happens to be the top man in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

'Traditional ceremony'

The couple took their vows in a traditional ceremony in the Kyrgyz town of Cholpon-Ata on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.

The BBC correspondent in Kyrgyzstan says the wedding is seen by many people as a return to the old Central Asian tradition of cementing political ties with family ones.

But officials from both countries insist it was not an arranged marriage and say the couple are genuinely in love.

The couple laid flowers at remembrance monuments in Kazakhstan on Saturday before travelling to Lake Issyk-kul for the nuptials.

Mothers in charge of preparations

Like weddings the world over, the fathers, President Nazarbayev and President Askar Akayev, left the preparations to their wives Sara and Mayram respectively.

Mrs Akayeva is reputedly known among the elite of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, for her subtle taste and sophistication and it was she who chose the venue.

[ image: Lake Issyk-kul is one of Kyrgyzstan's most beautiful parts]
Lake Issyk-kul is one of Kyrgyzstan's most beautiful parts
She draped a white scarf over her new daughter-in-law's shoulders to welcome her to her new family and a symbolic yurt - the round felt-clad tent of the Kazakh and Kyrgyz nomads, was raised to wish the couple a happy life.

Both countries are nominally Muslim but secular in practice and the wedding was toasted with the finest French wines.

Among the guests were Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov and Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov but Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov is not expected to attend. All three will be watching to see how the cosy Kazakh-Kyrgyz relations affect them.

President Nazerbayev said the wedding symbolised that both their peoples, Kazakh and Kyrgyz, would always be together and said may both their countries prosper.

Guests threw sweets, in line with tradition, at the happy couple after they climbed a stairway which symbolised 300 steps of hope.

The bride is a student at Georgetown University in Washington while her new husband is completing an economics degree at the University of Maryland, also in the United States.

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