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Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (R) leaves a voting booth next to his wife Mehriban at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Baku, November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Vugar Amrullaev


BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has appointed his wife Mehriban to the role of first vice president, according to a decree published on the presidential website on Tuesday.

The decree did not specify what duties 52-year-old Mehriban Aliyev would have in her new post although the constitution states that the first vice president will deputise for the president while he is out of the country.

The posts of vice president and first vice president - a more senior position - were introduced last year after a constitutional referendum cleared the way for the president's powers to be devolved if he becomes incapacitated.

The referendum also extended the presidential term from five to seven years. An earlier vote had scrapped term limits for the presidency.

The other vice-presidential post remains vacant.

European institutions and rights bodies accuse the Azeri authorities of curbing free expression. Azeri officials deny these accusations.

Ilham Aliev came to power in 2003, replacing his father Heydar, who ruled the oil-rich country since 1993.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Catherine Evans)