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A leader of the self-declared interim government that has claimed power in Kyrgyzstan said Tuesday the deposed president must return to the capital or face arrest by special forces.
But ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was defiant, rallying some 5,000 supporters in his power base and refusing to give in to demands that he step down.
"My power is in the people, not in me," he told the crowd in the city of Jalal-Abad.
In Bishkek, the capital, interim government vice-premier Azymbek Beknazarov told reporters that if Bakiyev does not come to Bishkek after this rally, special forces would prepare an operation to arrest him.
It was not immediately clear what the interim authorities would do with Bakiyev if he did go to Bishkek, and Bakiyev dismissed the threat after the rally, telling The Associated Press "I don't recognize such actions."
The hardening positions on both sides raised the prospect of new violence in the impoverished, strategically important former Soviet Central Asian country. The United States and Russia both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan and developments are being watched with concern in both Washington and Moscow.
The crowd listening to Bakiyev was clearly enthusiastic; one speaker who appeared before Bakiyev broke down in tears as he praised the president.
But the atmosphere was peaceful and Bakiyev urged his supporters not to renew violence.
"The whole world is looking at us. We must preserve stability," he said in his energetic, half-hour address.
Bakiyev fled the capital to his native south last Wednesday after a protest rally in the capital erupted into shooting and chaos; at least 83 people were killed. Protesters stormed government building and opposition leaders declared themselves in control.
The opposition initially had guaranteed Bakiyev safe passage out of the country if he stepped down.
On Tuesday he said "I am willing to negotiate," but it was not clear what possibilities he would be willing to discuss.
Beknazarov said Tuesday that his government has ordered Bakiyev stripped of the usual presidential immunity. He also said the country's constitutional court has been suspended because of unspecified violations and that the chairman of the Supreme Court had been dismissed.
The U.S. base, at the capital's international airport, is a key piece in the NATO military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The base provides refueling flights for warplanes over Afghanistan and is a transit point for troops.
This program aired on April 13, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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