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Turkmenistan's president wants a Las Vegas-style resort on the Caspian Sea

Reuters

A general view shows the resort of Avaza June 8, 2011.

Reuters

A woman relaxes underneath a photo displaying Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at the resort of Avaza June 8, 2011. Turkmenistan's all-powerful leader promises that, one day soon, he will build a Las Vegas on the windswept shores of the Caspian Sea.

Reuters

A general view shows the resort of Avaza June 8, 2011.

Reuters

A general view shows the resort of Avaza June 8, 2011.

Dmitry Solovyov of Reuters writes:

Turkmenistan's all-powerful leader promises that, one day soon, he will build a Las Vegas on the windswept shores of the Caspian Sea.

Illuminated by distant gas flares, thousands of construction workers toil through the night to build the next stage of Avaza: a fantasy resort built on the reclusive Central Asian nation's fabulous energy riches.

Seven colossal, marble-fronted hotels ordered by President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov line the coast. At least another 23 are planned in a project which some say could divert up to $5 billion from Turkmenistan's state coffers.

But state publicity and lavish spending cannot hide the fact that Turkmenistan is one of the world's most authoritarian and secretive nations, where Berdymukhamedov's word is final and opposition among the 5.4 million population is non-existent.

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