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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Azeri leader back at work
Heydar Aliev
A gaunt president performing official duties on Tuesday
The President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, has returned to work, a day after collapsing on live television.

Officials said the veteran leader, who has ruled Azerbaijan on and off for 30 years, was feeling well.

"He is at work, in his office and is working normally," said Ali Hassanov, head of the public affairs department of the presidential administration.

Officials said the president, who is 80 next month, had suffered a sudden fall in blood pressure.

Mr Aliyev has a history of heart problems, and underwent major bypass surgery in the United States in 1999.

On Tuesday the Azeri Prime Minister Artur Rasizade was reported to have left overnight on an unscheduled visit to the US.

'Usual recommendations'

The independent ANS television channel reported that Mr Aliyev had met the interior minister and the security minister after arriving at work at noon (0700 GMT), and was due to meet US ambassador Ross Wilson.

Azeri President Heydar Aliyev just before his collapse
Mr Aliyev was seen clutching his heart and stumbling
ANS quoted Security Minister Namiq Abbasov as saying: "The president asked questions about day-to-day affairs and gave his usual recommendations. Everything is in order."

On Monday Mr Aliyev was delivering a speech to military cadets when he clutched his heart and stumbled, uttering the words: "Something has struck me?"

Aides whisked him off the stage, but he returned and resumed his speech before collapsing off camera.

He returned a second time to wave at the audience, but did not finish the speech.

Officials have a record of being economical with the truth when discussing the president's health.

Before his heart bypass operation they said merely that he was suffering from bronchitis.

Political analysts say Mr Aliyev has no obvious successor, and that his death would most likely be followed by a struggle for the succession.

In 2002 Mr Aliyev is believed to have undergone prostate surgery at the same clinic in Cleveland in the USA.

He had a hernia operation there earlier this year.

Political survivor

Mr Aliyev - a former KGB general - has led Azerbaijan on and off since 1969, when he was appointed Communist Party chief of the then Soviet republic.

Since becoming president of independent Azerbaijan in 1993, Mr Aliyev has consolidated his power still further.

He has been credited with inviting foreign companies to invest heavily in the oil-rich Caspian Sea, where construction of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline has just begun.

But opposition parties and human rights groups say Mr Aliyev has a dismal human-rights record, with most of his opponents either in jail or living outside the country.

The ailing president has also been accused of grooming his son Ilham to become his successor.




SEE ALSO:
Aliev: Azerbaijan's kingpin
21 Apr 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Azerbaijan
10 Mar 03  |  Country profiles



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