Page last updated at 06:43 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mongolia nominates a new leader


Mongolia's ruling party has nominated Foreign Minister Batbold Sukhbaatar to be the country's new prime minister.

If confirmed as prime minister he will replace Bayar Sanjaa, who asked to resign due to ill health.

Mr Batbold is reputedly one of the country's wealthiest men and is expected to continue the country's pursuit of investment in mining.

Mongolia, landlocked between Russia and China, is poor despite rich deposits of copper, gold, uranium, silver and oil.

The ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) will submit Mr Batbold's nomination to President Elbegdorj Tsakhia, who is expected to give his approval in the next few days.

After that, the Mongolian parliament, called the State Great Khural, will vote on his confirmation.

Natural resources

Parliament had earlier approved the request of Mr Bayar to resign - he has suffered from hepatitis C and related liver problems and was hospitalised again last week.

He had recently overseen the signing of a long-debated deal between Mongolia and two mining companies - Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines.

A mix of old and new buildings on the outskirts of Ulan Batur
The Mongolian government says economic development is a priority

This would see the development of a $4bn (£2.44bn) gold and copper mine, the Oyu Tolgoi mine in the Gobi Desert.

"I regret that I couldn't finish what I planned to do," Mr Bayar told lawmakers, according to state television.

"The government still has a lot of work to do," he said.

Mr Bayar became prime minister in November 2007 after assuming the leadership of the MPRP, which had ruled the country for decades as a one-party communist state until a peaceful move to multi-party politics in the 1990s.

He was confirmed in his post in September 2008, two months after riots erupted in the capital Ulan Bator over a disputed June parliamentary election victory by the MPRP. Five people were killed.

The MPRP still controls the 76-seat parliament, but Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of the opposition Democratic Party won the presidency in May, creating a virtual coalition government.

Mongolia's location, between Russia and China, has prompted feelings of vulnerability, requiring its leaders to carefully balance conflicting interests.

Mr Batbold was educated in Moscow and London.

Between 1992 and 2000, he headed the trading company Altai Trading Company Limited, which formed a gold mining joint venture with Canadian firm Centerra Gold Inc.

Altai Trading, which has hotel and cashmere interests, is now being managed by Mr Batbold's wife.

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