Kyrgyz leader says he is ready for vote of confidence

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BISHKEK, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan's leader said Wednesday he was ready to hold a vote of confidence referendum in his presidency by the end of the summer.

"If anyone has doubts, I am ready to initiate a vote of confidence referendum in the current presidency, but not before the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit," Kurmanbek Bakiyev told a Cabinet meeting.

A regional security alliance comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the SCO will gather for its next summit meeting in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, in August 2007.

Bakiyev brushed aside as unrealistic calls from opposition leaders to hold early presidential elections.

"Starting political action ahead of the summit, which is a momentous event for our country, would be an irresponsible step to take," Bakiyev said.

Former prime minister Felix Kulov, who went into opposition after his resignation last December, said he would stage mass protests to push for an early presidential vote. He said he could claim for himself a share of the votes won by Bakiyev in the 2005 ballot as he was his running mate, and that this calls the incumbent's legitimacy into question.

Bakiyev, who is also facing increasing pressure from the opposition to amend the Constitution, has now agreed to set up a task force that will draft amendments to the supreme law.

He told the Cabinet session this ad hoc group could comprise five representatives of the opposition and four members of the incumbent government.

Several opposition parties demanded last week that Bakiyev should immediately launch constitution reform and other systemic overhauls, threatening with further protests if he failed to do so.

Opposition protests last fall resulted in the adoption of a new constitution that delegated much of the president's authority to the legislature, effectively turning Kyrgyzstan into a parliamentary republic.

In December, however, parliament voted in another constitution draft, letting the presidential branch regain all the previously ceded powers.

Speaking of the possibility of forming a coalition government, Bakiyev said change was premature at this point, and would not be possible to bring about until after specific proposals from opposition parties had been submitted and considered.

Earlier in the day, PM Azim Isabekov announced the dismissal of seven Cabinet ministers, and invited the opposition to nominate their candidates to fill the vacant posts.

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