World News

Sanj Bayar elected Mongolia prime minister

BEIJING (Reuters) - Mongolia’s parliament elected Sanj Bayar as the country’s new prime minister on Thursday, China’s Xinhua news agency reported, weeks after its former leader resigned under pressure from his party.

Sanj Bayar had been widely tipped for the post and has promised to reform his once-communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and eradicate corruption.

The vast, windswept country, sandwiched between China and Russia, is seen as a beacon of democracy in Central Asia, but its government has been fraught with frequent shifts in leadership.

Sanj Bayar’s predecessor, Miyeegombiin Enkhbold, was elected in January 2006, but was forced to resign earlier this month by peers in the MPRP fed up with his weak, minority government.

Sanj Bayar has said that he would install a new cabinet, but with a general election scheduled for the summer of 2008, a big shake-up was unlikely.

His party ruled Mongolia for much of the last century as a one-party Soviet satellite, but has since embraced market reforms.

The country, the home of Genghis Khan and once the centre of one of the world’s greatest empires, is home to a large nomadic population who graze sheep and cattle on its rolling grasslands, but it sits on vast mineral wealth.

How to exploit its copper and gold reserves is seen as the key issue facing the country.

Ivanhoe Mines, which is part-owned by Rio Tinto, says its Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project would increase Mongolia’s gross domestic product by 34 percent, but parliament has yet to ratify the draft investment agreement for the Gobi desert site.

Reporting by Lindsay Beck