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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 10:10 GMT
Kyrgyz president sacks ministers
Young Kyrgyz opposition supporter wave the National Kyrgyz flag in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan, 22 March 2005.
Mr Akayev has much less support in the south than in the north
Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev has sacked his interior minister and prosecutor general, as protests continue in the country's south.

A presidential spokesman said Bakirdin Subanbekov and Myktybek Abdyldayev were dismissed due to their "poor work".

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

But President Akayev has insisted the poll was valid, and on Tuesday he branded the protests a coup attempt.

The ministers' departure comes as a result of mounting protests sparked by elections in February, and a second round on 13 March, which saw the opposition reduced to just a handful of seats in the 75-member parliament.

Opposition protesters have seized control of several towns in the south, including Osh and Jalal-Abad.

The north of the country is more loyal to Mr Akayev, but if protests spread to the capital Bishkek, analysts say Kyrgyzstan could face an uprising like those seen in two other former Soviet states, Georgia and Ukraine.

Towns occupied

Osh and Jalal-Abad were both quiet on Wednesday morning.

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

A small group of protestors gathered in the main square in Osh, reiterating an opposition demand that Mr Akayev should stand down.

Protesters are still occupying official buildings, the television station and the airport, and security forces have all but disappeared from the city centre.

But the tension of the last few days has evaporated, according to the BBC Central Asia correspondent Monica Whitlock.

The mood is good-humoured and Osh is mainly back to normal, she said.

Many people in the town are not especially bothered by the local administration collapsing, she added. Some support the opposition, while others do not see that it makes much difference.

Politically though, this is an important moment in the crisis that has unfolded so dramatically.

On Tuesday evening, President Akayev appeared on television and invited the opposition to open what he called a civilised dialogue.

Appearing calm and assured, he said he was ready and waiting for an opposition leader to come forward to begin discussions.

This speech has put the protesters on the spot, our correspondent says.

The opposition is splintered along regional lines and so far no central figure has emerged.

Mr Akayev's Prime Minister, Nikolai Tanayev, was due to fly to Osh on Wednesday in an effort to start a dialogue, according to the president's spokesman.


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



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