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Turkmenistan ex-leader Niyazov's arch to be removed

18 January 10 18:26 GMT

A giant arch topped by a gold-plated statue of Turkmenistan's late leader, Saparmyrat Niyazov, is to be moved out of the centre of the country's capital.

President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who took power after the strongman's death in 2006, gave the order to remove the monument from central Ashgabat.

The statue on the 75m (246ft) arch was designed to rotate towards the sun.

Its removal is seen as a new step to dismantle the personality cult around "Turkmenbashi", as Niyazov was known.

Niyazov fostered the cult over the two decades in which he ruled the former Soviet republic in Central Asia.

Statues and portraits of Turkmenbashi, which translates as Father of the Turkmen, were erected everywhere. Cities, airports and even a meteorite were named after him.

He introduced increasingly personal laws, and a book he wrote to be a "spiritual guide" for the nation was made required reading.

It was, say analysts, one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world.

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