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December 20, 2005

Speak English or Find a New Job!

The president of Turkmenistan has given his new oil and gas minister six months to master English - or get a new job. Saparmurat Niyazov, who as leader of the former Soviet republic has banned all political opposition and maintains control of all government branches and the media, gave the ultimatum to the new official on the basis that many foreign delegations are visiting the Central Asian nation to discuss access to its vast reserves of natural gas. "Get a private teacher, study at night at home if you like. Just learn English. If you haven't mastered it in six months, if you can't get by without a translator, you won't be minister anymore." The president's word is law in a country where everyone is obliged to read his book, 'Rukhnama,' and his likeness can be seen everywhere from golden statues and busts across the country to every banknote and coin in circulation.
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