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    Turkmen presidential official confirms Niyazov's death

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    A senior presidential administration official in Turkmenistan confirmed by phone Thursday that the Central Asian country's leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, has died. "We can confirm only the fact of the president's death. We are not authorized to give any additional information on the cause of death," he said. Western agencies said earlier Niyazov died of a cardiac arrest early this morning at the age of 66.

    MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - A senior presidential administration official in Turkmenistan confirmed by phone Thursday that the Central Asian country's leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, has died.

    "We can confirm only the fact of the president's death. We are not authorized to give any additional information on the cause of death," he said.

    Western agencies said earlier Niyazov died of a cardiac arrest early this morning at the age of 66.

    The authoritarian leader, who ruled the ex-Soviet Central Asian republic for 21 years in various posts and styled himself Turkmenbashi (head of the Turkmen people) was president for life.

    Niyazov had been suffering from heart problems for several years. In 1997 he underwent heart bypass surgery in Germany. Since then, German cardiologists had traveled to Ashgabat regularly to treat the president.

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