AKAYEV REJECTS MEDIATION OFFERS FROM GEORGIA, UKRAINE

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MOSCOW, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - Askar Akayev, the deposed Kyrgyz President currently in self-imposed exile in Russia, predicts that up to 30 candidates will be running in the next presidential polls, with no apparent frontrunner.

"Just three or four candidates have announced their intention to run so far. But their number will likely come to about 30, " Mr Akayev said in a RIA interview Friday. He refused to speculate as to which of the hopefuls had the highest chance of scoring a victory. "Today, it is still too early to talk about who has a better chance [of winning the polls and to which [of the candidates] [voter] preference will be given," he said. "The situation will be changing not even by the day, but by the hour. The situation is very complicated indeed, with [unresolved] controversies between regions and clans."

Temirbek Akmataliyev, Emergencies Minister in the Akayev Cabinet, who is aspiring for the top job in Kyrgyzstan, does not have any advantage over his fellow hopefuls, the ousted Kyrgyz president argued.

Mr Akayev rejected Georgia's and Ukraine's offer to mediate between himself and Opposition leaders, who have come to power in his country. "That's out of the question," he said bluntly. "Me personally, I don't accept [such] offers from anyone. I am staying in Russia now. As I decided to leave the country [Kyrgyzstan, that is] temporarily, I made a firm decision to head for Russia. I believe that interim negotiations can be held nowhere else but in Russia."

That Ukraine and Georgia would be happy to step in to mediate between Mr Akayev and the Opposition was signaled Thursday by the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Boris Tarasyuk. He came over to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, for a visit. And so, too, did his Georgian counterpart, Salome Zourabichvili. The two of them held talks with the Speaker of the Kyrgyz legislature, Omurbek Tekebayev.

"We have arrived over here to find out what the situation is like on the ground and to then tell our [respective] presidents about the particulars of our prospective contribution to the settlement of the [political] crisis in Kyrgyzstan. Specifically, Ukraine and Georgia are willing and ready to provide assistance in contacts between the Opposition and Mr Akayev," said the visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister.

Since his arrival in Moscow, Mr Akayev has had meetings with incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin, ex-president Boris Yeltsin, and friends from the research community. He said he greatly appreciated it that Mr Putin had invited him over. Speaking of Mr Yeltsin, he said they had been friends ever since 1989. The former Russian president used to come to Kyrgyzstan for his summer vacation every year, he recalled, specifying that Lake Issyk Kul was among Yeltsin's favorite destinations.

As for his Russia-based friends, most of them are physicists, he said, expressing appreciation for their standing by him in this traumatic period of his life.

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