Turkmenistan fires starting pistol on desert auto rally


AFP, Amul :

Turkmenistan's authoritarian leader on Tuesday launched the isolated country's first international auto rally running through the Karakum desert and tracing a spur of the Old Silk Road.
The five-stage race involving more than 80 teams representing 20 countries is set to wind up on Saturday and will serve as a qualifying tournament for a longer, two-week rally through three African countries next year.
Speaking at the rally's opening, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said the race from the eastern city of Amul - a former hub on the old trade routes linking Europe and Asia - to the western city of Hazar on the country's Caspian coast would "bring peoples closer together."