- The Washington Times - Monday, April 12, 2010

TEYIT, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — Kyrgyzstan’s deposed president on Monday rallied supporters in his home village, testing his ability to mount resistance to the opposition forces that drove him out of the capital last week.

As about 500 people gathered in a muddy field in Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s native village of Teyit, the deputy head of the self-declared interim government said in the capital that an operation to arrest Mr. Bakiyev was being organized.

“Just let him try. If he does, much blood will be shed,” Mr. Bakiyev told reporters who asked him about the statement by Almazbek Atambayev.

Mr. Atambayev did not give details about the arrest plans, but said “we do not want fresh bloodshed.”

At least 81 people died in the capital last Wednesday when a confrontation between police and protesters exploded into gunfire and chaos. Protesters stormed government buildings and Mr. Bakiyev fled to his native southern region.

He has refused to step down and the rally in Teyit brought an array of speakers who vowed their support and waved banners with slogans such as “Hands off the legitimate president.”

There were no uniformed police in view at the rally, and the loyalty of the country’s security forces remains a significant question.

The stalemate has left Kyrgyzstan’s near-term stability in doubt. That worries the West because a U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan is crucial in the military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The base is used both as the launch point for refueling flights over Afghanistan and as a troop transit point. Troop transit flights had been diverted for several days, but the U.S. Embassy said Monday those flights have returned to normal operation and that the refueling flights are continuing.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake is to travel to Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday for talks including the base status.

Mr. Atambayev, echoing previous statements by interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva, said the base’s status will be discussed with the United States and “we shall decide everything in a civilized way.” Many Kyrgyz oppose the base and Mr. Atambayev expressed deep ambivalence.

The interim leadership on Monday announced the dismissal of Kyrgyzstan’s ambassadors to the United States, Germany, Russia and Turkey. But the ambassador to Russia, Raimkul Attakurov, rejected the order, telling the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that he would leave only on Mr. Bakiyev’s order.

Associated Press Writers Yuras Karmanau and Leila Saralayeva in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

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