- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

TURKMENISTAN

New leader promises undemocratic elections

MOSCOW — The man who unexpectedly became leader of Turkmenistan following the death of Saparmurat Niyazov pledged yesterday that new elections will be democratic — but only in the late dictator’s interpretation of the word.

Mr. Niyazov, who died Thursday at age 66, outlawed opposition parties and served as president for life. He tolerated no dissent, personally approved the content of all newspapers and had authorities block Web sites critical of his reign.

“National presidential elections will be held on a democratic basis that has been laid by the great leader,” Gurbungali Berdymukhamedov, the acting president, said yesterday in a decree.

Analysts predict a struggle for control both within this arid country, which is rich in oil and natural gas, and between Russia and the West.

INDIA

Pakistan hosts talks on estuary dispute

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan and India held talks yesterday aimed at resolving a dispute over an estuary on their border that has hampered exploration for oil and gas and led to the detention of hundreds of their fishermen.

The talks on the Sir Creek estuary, that flows into the Arabian Sea between the Pakistani province of Sindh and the Indian state of Gujarat, are part of a tentative peace process the nuclear-armed neighbors began in early 2004.

The two countries agreed in May to carry out a joint survey of the 60-mile-long estuary. Their military officials discussed details for survey in talks yesterday in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.

PAKISTAN

Attackers kill tribal policeman

MIRANSHAH — Suspected militants in a car killed a tribal policeman and injured two others yesterday in a drive-by shooting in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said.

The gunmen intercepted a government vehicle near Spalga village in a semiautonomous North Waziristan tribal zone and fled after opening fire on the car with assault rifles, a local security official said.

The security guard of the assistant political agent for Mir Ali district was killed and two other tribal policemen were injured in the shooting, he said on the condition of anonymity.

A string of similar attacks have been blamed on al Qaeda-linked and pro-Taliban militants who have taken refuge in the mountainous and largely lawless zone.

The killing came despite a controversial peace agreement signed in September between Islamist militants operating in the region and government forces, which calls for an end to militancy in the region.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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