Azerbaijan's First Elected President Dies at 62

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ANKARA, Turkey Abulfaz Elchibei, a former dissident who became the first elected president of Azerbaijan following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, died Tuesday. He was 62.

Elchibei, who was suffering from prostate cancer and a lung infection, died in Gulhane Military hospital in Ankara. He was rushed unconscious to Turkey in July for medical treatment.

Elchibei was elected president in 1992 but was ousted from power after only one year by soldiers enraged at their countrys humiliating battlefield losses to Armenians.

Armenian fighters drove Azeri forces from the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, a largely Armenian area within Azerbaijan, and seized nearby areas of Azerbaijan proper.

Some 45,000 soldiers marched on the capital, Baku, in 1993 and vowed to continue until Elchibei stepped down.

Elchibei was replaced by Heidar Aliyev, the former Communist leader of Azerbaijan, who remains president.

"I felt great sorrow over Elchibeis death," Aliyev said in a televised message that was aired in Turkey.

Elchibei taught Asian and African history at Baku State University in the 1960s. In 1964, he formed an underground group to work for the independence of Azerbaijan.

In 1975, Elchibei was tried on charges of anti-Soviet activities and sentenced to 1 1/2 years in a labor camp. When he became president, Elchibei worked to eject all Russian soldiers from the republic.

Turkish politicians gathered at Ankaras airport for a moment of silence and a brief military ceremony before Elchibeis body was flown back to Baku. A Turkish military honor guard escorted Elchibeis coffin to the plane.

"His body will be taken for a state funeral like a former president deserves," said Azerbaijans ambassador in Turkey, Memed Aliyev. "Elchibei was a very honorable man."

Elchibei was married and is survived by two children and a grandchild.