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Last Updated: Friday, 12 December, 2003, 21:16 GMT
Former Azerbaijan president dies
Heydar Aliyev
Aliyev collapsed on television earlier this year
Azerbaijan's former President Heydar Aliyev has died in a US hospital.

Aliyev died aged 80 at a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was being treated for heart and kidney problems.

He stepped down as president of Azerbaijan in October, and was succeeded by his son Ilham Aliyev, following controversial elections.

Heydar Aliyev was a former Soviet Communist leader who reinvented himself in the 1990s as a post-independence political strongman.

Aliyev had been at the Cleveland Clinic since 6 August, where he was being treated for congestive heart failure and kidney problems.

A hospital spokesman said Aliyev died at 1000 (1500 GMT) on Friday.

He had collapsed earlier this year during a speech that was broadcast live on television and initially he was treated in Turkey.


Aliyev had been in power in Azerbaijan on and off for about 30 years. He was elected as president in 1993, following the country's independence.

His record on human rights and media freedom was often criticised in the West, but he was also credited with bringing stability to the oil-rich country, and helping to attract foreign investment.

It was Aliyev's ill health that prompted him to stand down from the presidency two weeks before the 15 October election, leaving his son as the only candidate from the ruling party.

Ilham Aliyev won the election by a landslide. But the vote was marred by violence as riot police clashed with opposition supporters, who accused the government of rigging the election. At least two people died in the clashes.

International election observers denounced the poll, saying it had fallen short of international standards.

A spokesman for the Azerbaijan embassy in Washington said the former president's body would be flown to Azerbaijan in the next couple of days.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Forrest
"Preparations are already underway for a state funeral"



SEE ALSO:
Obituary: Heydar Aliyev
12 Dec 03  |  Europe
US bonds with new leader in Baku
04 Dec 03  |  Europe
Azeri dynasty stays in power
16 Oct 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Azerbaijan
12 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Azerbaijan
21 Oct 03  |  Country profiles



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