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UPDATED: 14:32, December 23, 2006
Putin offers condolences over death of Turkmenistan's president
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Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences to Turkmenistan's acting President Gurban Berdymukhammedov over the death of President Saparmurat Niyazov, the presidential press service said on Friday.

"Russia mourns the death of Saparmurat Niyazov. He led Turkmenistan to sovereignty and strengthened its international standing and economy," Putin said.

"Saparmurat Niyazov was a friend of Russia. It was thanks to him that we were able to lay a firm foundation for multifaceted bilateral relations. I am convinced that continuing to strengthen our partnership meets the true interests of the people of Russia and Turkmenistan," he said.

"I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Saparmurat Niyazov and the leaders and people of our friend Turkmenistan," Putin said.

Niyazov died of a sudden heart failure early Thursday at the age of 66, the government said in an address to the public.

Source: Xinhua

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