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 Sunday, 22 December, 2002, 03:55 GMT
Turkmenistan expels Uzbek envoy
Saparmurat Niyazov
Niyazov has built up a cult of personality
Turkmenistan has expelled the ambassador of its central Asian neighbour, Uzbekistan, over his alleged role in an assassination plot against the Turkmen president.

Kadyrov provided all possible assistance to Shikhmuradov

Turkmen Foreign Ministry
The Uzbek ambassador, Abdurashid Kadyrov, was given 24 hours to leave Turkmenistan.

On Wednesday, the ambassador was accused by the Turkmen prosecutor-general of giving the Turkmen opposition leader, Boris Shikhmuradov, shelter after last month's failed attack in which armed men opened fire on President Saparmurat Niyazov's motorcade.

The allegations were dismissed as groundless by the Uzbek Government.

President Niyazov has announced that 49 people, including 17 foreigners, have been arrested in connection with the attack on 25 November.

Mr Shikhmuradov, a former foreign minister, has been living abroad for the past year, and is not among those detained.

Embassy search

According to Turkmenistan, the Uzbek ambassador had arranged for Mr Shikhmuradov to enter the country the day before the attack and accommodated him on diplomatic premises.

An Uzbek diplomatic car was used to transport the alleged attacker, the Turkmens say.

"Kadyrov provided all possible assistance to Shikhmuradov, granting him shelter, a car with diplomatic license plates in which he arrived at the residence, housing, and food," said a foreign ministry statement.

Earlier this week, Turkmen security agents searched the Uzbek embassy, provoking a strong protest from Uzbekistan.

President Niyazov was not harmed in the attack, although four policemen suffered injuries.

The president only mentioned it in passing later in the day, leading to speculation that the incident might have staged to provide a pretext for the arrest of political opponents.

As well as Mr Shikhmuradov, three other former officials, also in exile, have been accused of being behind the attack.

They are the former head of the central bank, Khudayberdy Orazov, a former ambassador Nurmukhamet Khanamov, and a former junior minister Imamdurdy Yklymov.

President Niyazov, who has headed Turkmenistan since 1985 when it was still a republic in the Soviet Union, has become increasingly autocratic.

He has pursued a cult of personality, with large portraits of himself on most public buildings.

See also:

26 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
08 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Dec 02 | Country profiles
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