Rival parliaments bicker amid crisis in Kyrgyzstan


KYRGYZSTAN: Rival parliaments bickered yesterday over who should run Kyrgyzstan after its unexpected coup, while Western envoys warned that the strategic central Asian nation could still slip towards civil war.

Members of a parliament elected in the discredited polls that sparked the revolt insist they are the rightful representatives of Kyrgyzstan's five million people, while their predecessors denounce them as the illegitimate winners of a fraudulent ballot.

The impasse revealed the cracks in the erstwhile opposition movement, with powerful security chief Felix Kulov backing the new parliament, while acting foreign minister Rosa Otumbayeva supported the people they briefly replaced, before protests engulfed the capital Bishkek and forced President Askar Akayev to flee.

"You were elected for five years and your mandate has expired," the old parliament was told by Mr Kulov, who was jailed by Mr Akayev and freed by protesters during Thursday's revolt.

"According to the law, the new parliament has to start work," he added. "There are people whom I don't like in the newly elected parliament, but I am a law-abiding citizen and will obey the new parliament."

Mr Kulov has been struggling to bring security to the capital, after widespread looting followed the lightning coup, which brought a mob storming through the doors of government headquarters and left the police force in disarray.

At least three people were killed and hundreds injured in the violence.

As a degree of calm descended on Bishkek, Mr Kulov said infighting among the opposition could undo their victory in ending Mr Akayev's 15-year rule.

After ordering police back to work and to open fire on looters, he said he might not run against acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev in a June 26th presidential vote.

"I am so worried, I emphasise this, that to prevent anything bad happening it would be better not to run," Mr Kulov said, as fears rose of violence among rival clans and between the strongly Kyrgyz north and the predominantly Uzbek south of the country.