Otunbayeva sworn in as Kyrgyz leader in historic first

Image caption,
Mrs Otunbayeva is the region's first female president

Interim leader Rosa Otunbayeva has been sworn in as president of the troubled republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Mrs Otunbayeva took power after bloody street riots in April which ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The former foreign minister becomes the first female president of an ex-communist Central Asian country.

The inaguration comes days after a referendum on a new constitution which will create the region's first parliamentary democracy.

She took the oath of office at a Soviet-era concert hall in the capital Bishkek.


Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission said that more than 90% of ballots cast in Sunday's referendum were in favour of the constitution.

The vote came a month after ethnic violence in the south in which thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed and an estimated 400,000 people - many of them from the minority ethnic Uzbek community - displaced.

The official death toll from the violence that tore through Osh and Jalal-Abad currently stands at around 300, according to the AP news agency.

But Mrs Otunbayeva has said as many as 2,000 people may have died in the rioting. Most of the unrest was said to involve mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz attacking and setting fire to ethnic Uzbek districts.

The violence has abated but the country's Uzbek and Kyrgyz populations remain deeply divided. But ethnic Uzbeks have largely supported the interim government.

On Friday, acting Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Tekebayev, who played a crucial part in drawing up the new constitution, said he would step down from the Cabinet later this month to prepare for October elections.

His resignation came after Mrs Otunbayeva appealed for prospective candidates in her interim Cabinet to resign.

She said that was the only way to ensure a level playing field in the parliamentary vote, AP reports.

So severe was the violence last month the Kyrgyz government appealed to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops. But Moscow rejected the request, offering instead technical assistance to track those committing the violence.

The Red Cross (ICRC) described the situation as an "immense crisis".

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