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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Turkmen President Gives Himself a Pendant

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmenistan's president awarded himself a large gold and diamond pendant and issued coins with his portrait to celebrate his 50th birthday, state media reported Saturday, in an echo of lavish honors bestowed upon his autocratic predecessor.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov decorated himself with the Motherland Order -- a gold pendant bedecked with diamonds on a massive golden chain lined with gems -- for his "outstanding achievements," the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper said. It said the piece weighed nearly 1 kilogram.

As part of the award, Berdymukhammedov also received $20,000 and a 30 percent salary and pension increase, it said. The report did not say how much he was making.

The government also issued 200 gold and 200 silver commemorative coins decorated with Berdymukhammedov's portrait, the newspaper said.

"All my efforts are aimed at ensuring that Turkmens lead a decent life, that people don't need anything, that they are happy," Berdymukhammedov said at the award ceremony, the newspaper said. "I would like to stress this once again today: I will not step back from my plans and will continue doing all I can for the sake of the country and people."

Analysts said the honors Berdymukhammedov has bestowed upon himself were a sign he was beginning to build a personality cult similar to his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the country for two decades.