Turkmen Leader Fires Top Officials

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmenistan's president has fired almost one-third of his Cabinet and the head of the state oil company in a large-scale reshuffle reminiscent of his eccentric predecessor's frequent purges.

In a highly charged government meeting televised late Thursday, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov charged officials with committing "unforgivable mistakes and miscalculations."

The most prominent casualties included the ministers for energy, communications, sports and tourism. The heads of the state oil company Turkmenneft and the state geological agency, which explores the country's vast hydrocarbon resources, were also dismissed.

Berdymukhamedov said significant progress had been made in the Central Asian nation's oil and gas sector but blasted what he called financial irregularities and the mismanagement of advanced technical equipment, which he said have caused overspending and accidents.

Under autocratic former President Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in December 2006, the dismissal and the subsequent arrest of high-level officials was routine. Last week's government purge was the largest since Berdymukhammedov came to power.