Kyrgyz leader rejects calls to nationalise Centerra mine as riots persist

Wed Oct 9, 2013 4:58am EDT
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* Atambayev says "wrong decision" will hit economy hard

* Says "paid scum" using Kumtor row to grab power

* Persistent riots show weakness of central government

By Olga Dzyubenko

BISHKEK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev on Wednesday rejected opposition calls to nationalise the country's flagship venture with Centerra Gold, saying his opponents were using the dispute with the Canadian investor to grab power.

The Kumtor mine is Kyrgyzstan's major foreign exchange earner and accounted for 12 percent of 2011 gross domestic product in the impoverished nation of 5.5 million which has seen two presidents deposed by popular revolts since 2005.

Persistent violent riots over ownership of the mine flared up again this week, and Atambayev's government has passed its deadline to renegotiate or cancel its agreements with Centerra, signed in 2009 under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who fled after an uprising in April 2010.

Last month Atambayev's government and Centerra Gold signed a memorandum of understanding, which paves the way for Kyrgyzstan to swap its 32.7 percent stake for a 50 percent interest in a joint venture that would own Kumtor, Centerra's core asset.

The draft deal was met with opposition demands to either boost Kyrgyzstan's share to at least two thirds, nationalise Kumtor or pass a no-confidence vote in the government.   Continued...