Oil report

Turkmen leader "not very bright" - leaked U.S. cable

* WikiLeaks publishes cable from U.S. diplomat in Ashgabat

* Says Turkmen leader “vain” and “vindictive”

* Says Berdymukhamedov prefers China to U.S., Iran, Turkey

* President wanted yacht like Roman Abramovich’s

MOSCOW, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan’s leader is described as “not very bright” and “a practised liar” in a cable from the U.S. embassy in the gas-rich Central Asian state that was published on Thursday by the website WikiLeaks.

Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov does not like the United States, Iran or Turkey, but is fond of China, said the cable. Fastidiously neat, he also once insisted that all men who worked in his dental clinic had creases in their trousers.

The cable, sent on Dec. 18, 2009 by then Charge d’Affaires Sylvia Reed Curran, did not reveal the identity of the source who delivered the withering analysis of the Turkmen leader. Curran is now Consul General in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

The classified message, part of the biggest ever leak of U.S. diplomatic documents, is sure to embarrass Washington at a time when U.S. firms are seeking to strike deals to develop lucrative oil and gas deposits in the former Soviet republic.

"Since he's not a very bright guy, our source offered, he is supicious of a lot of people," the U.S. diplomat was quoted as relaying in the cable published by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

It said he was “not fond of” two leaders of nearby Central Asian states, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Several calls to Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry for comment on the contents of the cables went unanswered.

In another cable, sent by Curran on Oct. 23, 2008, unnamed expatriate sources were quoted as saying Berdymukhamedov had set sail on a 60 million euro presidential yacht.

The president had wanted a yacht similar to that owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, but had to settle for a smaller model that would be able to fit through canals leading to the Caspian Sea, the cable quoted a source as saying.


Turkmenistan, holder of the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, was largely isolated under the eccentric rule of Berdymukhamedov’s predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, who died four years ago after imposing a formidable personality cult.

Berdymukhamedov is now the “decider” in Turkmenistan, the 2009 cable read. “Since his word is often law, it is beneficial to understand what makes him tick.”

The source said Berdymukhamedov “did not like America, Iran or Turkey, but likes China”. Curran qualified this by saying he probably viewed countries in terms of what they could do for him and Turkmenistan, rather than “liking or disliking”.

Turkmenistan fell out with Russia, its traditional gas market, after a pipeline rupture last year and is seeking to diversify its energy sales to China -- which has supplied billions of dollars in loans -- as well as Iran and Europe.

U.S. oil companies Chevron Corp CVX.N, ConocoPhillips COP.N and TXOil Ltd, chaired by a younger brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush, were named by state media in August as preferred bidders for oil blocks in the Caspian Sea.

The cable also quoted the unidentified source as describing Berdymukhamedov as “vain, suspicious, guarded, strict, very conservative, a practised liar, a good actor and vindictive”.

He also, said the cable, never forgets. (Reporting by Moscow bureau; editing by Philippa Fletcher)