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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 16:00 GMT
Kyrgyz leader blasts 'coup bid'
Kyrgyz protester wrapped in a national flag
Discontent has been fuelled by unemployment in the south
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has said protests sweeping the south of the country amount to a coup planned by his opponents with foreign support.

"Opposition forces, financed from the outside, are seeking to bring about the collapse of our society," he said.

The unrest was sparked by parliamentary elections this year which the opposition said were rigged.

President Akayev, who insists the elections were fair, ruled out the use of force against protesters.

Addressing the newly elected parliament, he described the unrest as a temporary phenomenon which would be brought under control quickly.

He said the protests had been staged to force the authorities into using large-scale force.

"I want to state firmly that I, as president, will never resort to such steps," he said.

Eyes on Bishkek

Protests continued on Tuesday in the southern towns of Osh and Jalal-Abad.

OPPOSITION ANGER
Protesters say parliamentary poll was rigged and want president to resign
Opposition includes local leaders who lost seats
Protests fuelled by dissatisfaction at the economy and official corruption
Presidential election due in October but Mr Akayev barred from running

But the head of Kyrgyzstan's election commission said on Tuesday that the results were valid.

"Today a new parliament has been born," said Sulaiman Imanbayev.

There were indications that the protests, which have so far centred on a number of cities in the south, may spread to the capital, Bishkek.

Interior ministry troops and riot police have been deployed to guard the perimeter of the capital's main square.

An opposition leader, Roza Otounbaieva, told the Russian media that the next "target" was Bishkek.

She said opposition forces already controlled six out of seven districts in Osh, five out of eight in Jalal-Abad, one of the five in Naryn and three out of four in Talas.

"Many security officials have already switched to our side," said Ms Otounbaieva.

On Monday, the president ordered an investigation into the disputed election results and said he was ready to talk with the opposition.

Critical stage

The protests, which began after last month's parliamentary elections, may be at a critical stage, says BBC Central Asia correspondent Monica Whitlock, with moderates on all sides anxious for negotiations.

She said that if the opposition is unable to identify a leader quickly and a set of proposals to negotiate with the government, the unrest could degenerate.

Tuesday's proceedings in Osh began with big crowds of demonstrators in felt hats filling the main square.

They passed round a microphone, shouting that President Akayev must go and railing against the poverty and unemployment that has beset Kyrgyzstan, especially in the south.

Only 500-600 people gathered, a much smaller number than the vast crowds of the last few days.

Then the rally moved off, taking its message around the city where many ordinary people have stayed at home, worried by the chaos that has turned their quiet town upside down in the last few days.

But our correspondent says that with all government buildings, the airport and the television station now in opposition hands, there are no obvious prizes left in Osh.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
President Akayev addressing the Krygyz parliament




SEE ALSO:
Profile: Askar Akayev
22 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Frontrunners for Kyrgyz top job
22 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Kyrgyz media coy on protests
21 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Why Kyrgyzstan matters
21 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Kyrgyz protesters take over town
21 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Voting ends in close Kyrgyz poll
13 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Kyrgyzstan
23 Feb 05 |  Country profiles


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