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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Riots Give Way to Tense Standoff

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Opposition supporters and police officers formed joint patrols to keep order in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city of Osh, while President Askar Akayev on Tuesday pledged he would not impose a state of emergency amid mounting pressure for his resignation over allegations of fraud in recent parliamentary elections.

A day after stone-throwing mobs stormed government buildings in the country's south to underline their demand that Akayev resign, both sides in the tense standoff appeared intent on re-establishing calm.

But a key opposition leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, warned that the country was on the verge of conflict. "The situation is explosive and may go out of control at any moment," he said, Itar-Tass reported.

Kyrgyz politics is heavily clan-based and Akayev, a northerner, has strong support there. If the fractured opposition coalesced enough to carry protests toward the capital, Bishkek, in the north, tension could increase significantly.

Protests against Akayev began after the first round of parliamentary elections on Feb. 27 and swelled after the March 13 run-offs that the opposition and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said were seriously flawed.

The new parliament was convened Tuesday, indicating that Akayev was unwilling to give credence to complaints that the election was unfair.

In an address to the parliament a day after opposition protesters took control of Osh, the country's second-largest city, and several other towns, Akayev said the protesters' action was "a direct threat to the people and the government. The opposition is directed and funded from outside."

In a later address to the nation, Akayev said talks were possible, but "the mandatory requirement before we can start talks with those who have organized all illegal actions is restoration of legal order and the work of government agencies."

Earlier in the day, his spokesman, Abdil Seghizbayev, described the protests as part of a criminal attempt to seize power. "Criminal elements connected to the drug mafia are in complete control of the situation in Osh and Jalal-Abad, and are struggling to gain power," Seghizbayev said, referring to two southern towns that have seen riots. Osh is a major transit point for drugs from Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Despite speculation that he would introduce emergency rule, Akayev said he was "fully committed to not taking such measures."

He called the protests "a putsch and a coup" engineered by criminals, Interfax reported. Seghizbayev also claimed protesters had seized weapons when storming a police station in Jalal-Abad. "The only wise move for the government at the moment is not to enter a confrontation," he said.

In Bishkek, several busloads of Interior Ministry troops and riot police were guarding the main square, next to the president's office and other government buildings, where several hundred pro-Akayev protesters had gathered.

Akayev sought to stem the mounting tide of protests Monday by ordering an investigation into the vote-rigging allegations.

Central Election Commission chief Sulaiman Imanbayev announced what he called final election results Tuesday, but did not provide breakdowns for individual districts.

He said results in 71 of the country's 75 electoral districts were legitimate, adding that one district would require a repeat vote and the other three would be disputed in court.