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EU urges new Turkmen leader to free political prisoners, offers help with reform,

EU urges new Turkmen leader to free political prisoners, offers help with reform

BERLIN: European Union president Germany said Friday that the bloc is willing to help the new leadership of Turkmenistan implement democratic reforms and urged the nation’s new president to free political prisoners.

Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov was sworn in Wednesday to succeed the late President Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in December after two decades of autocratic rule over the gas-rich Central Asian nation.

Germany, which holds the 27-nation EU’s rotating presidency, said it hoped Berdymukhamedov’s election would pave the way for reform — particularly regarding human rights and democracy.

The EU "is willing to ... assist the new government in implementing democratic values and market economy principles," a German statement on behalf of the EU said.

It is "ready to engage in political dialogue with the new government of Turkmenistan, in order to assist Turkmenistan in implementing reforms, in particular in the fields of human rights, democracy and rule of law," it added.

"The European Union calls upon the new president of Turkmenistan to free political prisoners and to guarantee adherence to internationally accepted human rights standards," the statement said.

Berdymukhamedov already has reversed his predecessor’s reduction of compulsory education and announced the opening of the country’s first public Internet cafe.

The German statement said the EU "would like to hear more about the development plans" of the new government.

International Herald Tribune http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/02/16/europe/EU-GEN-EU-Turkmenistan.php

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