Kazakh leader 'back home' after treatment reports

21st July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The veteran president of Kazakhstan re-emerged on state television Thursday following a 10-day absence during which he reportedly underwent surgery at a hospital in Germany.

The Bild newspaper reported this week that Nursultan Nazarbayev, 71, had prostate surgery at University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, raising concerns about a possible vacuum in Central Asia's largest economy.

Without referring to any leave of absence, the presidential website said Nazarbayev held a meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana with the country's most senior officials including Prime Minister Karim Massimov.

Kazakh state television then showed a lengthy report in which the republic's only post-Soviet leader presided over a meeting that effectively pronounced the country's future sound.

Nazarbayev looked thinner but refreshed and spoke in a firm voice.

"We see what's happening in Europe. They are having problems with high debt. But the Kazakh economy is showing not only the stability, but also social significance of all the work we are doing," Nazarbayev said during the meeting.

Kazakh officials did not comment on the reported treatment in Germany, saying only he was on holiday. Bild said Nazarbayev arrived in the German city of Hamburg on July 10 and was operated on by a Dutch specialist.

A statement dated July 11 on the presidential website said the president was on a "brief" holiday. Until Thursday's meeting, there had been no information on the president's activities except for a short statement of condolence over the Volga boat tragedy in Russia.

Nazarbayev had also spoken with Uzbek President Islam Karimov to offer support after an earthquake that killed 13 people in the country, the presidency said.

Massimov provided an exhaustive list of economic statistics in the statement but no reference was made to Nazarbayev's absence, in a clear message that business is carrying on as normal.

The president's health and personal life are a matter of state secrecy in the vast gas-rich nation but Nazarbayev has always sought to show a healthy image, frequently shown jogging or playing tennis.

Nazarbayev's disappearance sparked concerns among investors over succession in the Central Asian country, which he has ruled since 1989 and is the only president post-Soviet Kazakhstan has ever known.

Earlier this week prices for insurance on Kazakh debt rose on the news of Nazarbayev's hospital visit, underscoring how much the Central Asian nation's stability dependent on one man.

The man most often cited as a possible successor to Nazarbayev is his son-in-law Timur Kulibayev, head of the giant Kazakh state holding company Samruk-Kazyna and husband of his middle daughter Dinara.

Nazarbayev won over 95 percent in presidential elections this year but his crushing victory was marred by complaints from international observers that the elections fell well short of being free and fair.

He came to power while Kazakhstan was still a Soviet republic and was elected president after it won independence. Along with Karimov, he is the longest serving leader in the former USSR.

The president's advisers have predicted that Nazarbayev will stand again for another five year term as president in the next elections in 2016 so long as his health allows.

© 2011 AFP

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