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Kyrgyz interim government plans elections

A coalition of opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan says its new interim government will rule until elections are held in six months.

President Bakiyev won't resign, Kyrgyz news agency reports

Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva says Kyrgyzstan's parliament has been dissolved. ((Sergei Grits/Associated Press))

A coalition of opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan said Thursday its new interim government will rule until elections are held in six months.

Opposition leaders and protesters raided several government buildings and took control of the state TV headquarters in the Central Asian country's capital, Bishkek, during violent riots Wednesday.

The clashes between security forces and thousands of protesters left dozens dead and hundreds injured.

Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister, announced that parliament had been dissolved and she would head the interim government.

She also urged President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to resign.

According to 24.kg, an online news agency based in Kyrgyzstan, Bakiyev declared in an email that he would not step down.

"I have not relinquished and will not relinquish power," Bakiyev wrote. "What's more important now is to stop the violence and the crazy rage of the crowd that spilled over the streets and squares of Bishkek and other cities."

Otunbayeva said the new government controlled four of the seven provinces in the country, home to a key U.S. military base supporting the fighting in Afghanistan. The opposition has said it wants to close the base.

Otunbayeva said Bakiyev had fled the capital to muster support in the country's central Jalal-Abad region.

"His business in Kyrgyzstan is finished," she said.

Otunbayeva blamed Bakiyev for the week's violent protests. On Wednesday, riot police in Bishkek opened fire on crowds of rock-throwing demonstrators. Doctors in the city's hospitals struggled to keep pace with the flood of wounded.

Wednesday's turmoil spread to other cities. Some 5,000 protesters seized the administration building in the southern city of Naryn and installed a new governor, opposition activist Adilet Eshenov said.

Another 10,000 protesters stormed police headquarters in the western town of Talas. An opposition activist said Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev was beaten to death by a mob in the town.

Wednesday's countrywide riots were preceded by violent protests in Talas the previous day.

People carry an injured man near the main government building in Bishkek on Wednesday. ((Azamat Imanaliyev/Associated Press))

There are conflicting reports of the number of people killed in Wednesday's clashes. The Health Ministry has said 74 people were killed countrywide, while the opposition said at least 100 people died.

"Yesterday's events were a response to aggression, tyranny and a crackdown on dissenters," Otunbayeva said. "All the people who were killed and wounded are victims of this regime."

Many protesters were outraged at huge hikes in prices for electricity and gas heating that went into effect in January.

In the past two years, Bakiyev's government had clamped down on the news media, and opposition activists said they were routinely intimidated and targeted by politically motivated criminal investigations.

The interim defence minister said the armed forces have joined the opposition and will not be used to disperse protesters.

"Special forces and the military were used against civilians in Bishkek, Talas and other places," Ismail Isakov said. "This will not happen in the future."

Bakiyev said in his email that he would "take responsibility" for his "guilt" in the tragic events this week, "if the guilt is proven by an objective and unbiased investigation," according to 24.kg.

But he added that opposition leaders should be held accountable for any "further destabilization" and "punished according to the law."

Journalists in Bishkek reported hearing sustained gunfire on Thursday night, although it was not immediately clear who was doing the shooting and whether anyone was killed or injured.

Freelance reporter Ben Judah told CBC-TV's News Now that the city has plunged into a "state of anarchy and confusion."

Judah said mobs were roaming the streets and there were signs of looting across the city.

Obama, Medvedev discuss uprising

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed the situation in Kyrgyzstan before signing an arms treaty in Prague on Thursday, officials said.

Michael McFaul, Obama's senior director for Russian affairs, said that the dialogue over Kyrgyzstan is an indication of improved U.S.-Russia relations and that Medvedev initiated the discussion with Obama.

McFaul said no decision was made on a possible response.

"We're trying to keep the peace right now," McFaul said. "We talked in general terms of things we've got to coordinate."

Officials in China said they were "deeply concerned" about the uprising, echoing earlier comments by officials in Russia and the U.S. All three countries provide aid to Kyrgyzstan, which has remained impoverished since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Manas, the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan, is an essential transit point for supplies to the military operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Manas spokesman Maj. Rickardo Bodden said Thursday that the military has temporarily suspended humanitarian missions and other trips that would normally take troops off the base outside Bishkek.

Flights to Afghanistan have been cut back, though officials declined to say by how much.

It was not clear when the air base would fully reopen.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for calm and said he would immediately send an envoy to Kyrgyzstan. Ban, who visited the country last week, had criticized its government for violating human rights and suppressing the media.

"I could feel the tension in the air," he said Thursday in Vienna, where he is attending UN meetings. "The pressure has been building for months."

With files from The Associated Press

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