Kazakh president laughs off 'Borat' controversy

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LONDON --There's no such thing as bad publicity, the president of Kazakhstan joked on Tuesday as he welcomed the attention lavished on his country by the comedy film "Borat".

"This film was created by a comedian so let's laugh at it, that's my attitude," a smiling President Nursultan Nazarbayev told reporters at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"There's a saying that any publicity is good publicity," he added, when asked about the treatment given to his country on the screen.

The movie satirizes America and also pokes fun at a fictional Kazakhstan as a place where people drink fermented horse urine among other questionable practices.

The film, whose full title is "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan", is a box-office hit in the United States and Europe despite fierce debate over its main character's controversial opinions.

British-born Sacha Baron Cohen, 35, plays a moustachioed Kazakh journalist who tours the United States expressing misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic views.

Baron Cohen's jokes have become a public relations headache for Kazakhstan as the former Soviet state seeks to portray itself as a modern nation of well-educated professionals and a major non-OPEC oil exporter.

A village in Romania stood in for Kazakhstan in the film, and Nazarbayev noted that Baron Cohen had never visited his country. However, he laughed off the controversy.

Standing alongside Blair, he initially asked whether Baron Cohen's alter ego was at the press conference. "Maybe the journalist himself Borat Sagdiyev is here representing Kazakhstan? I would very much like to speak to him if he is."

Nazarbayev was in Britain -- his first official visit since 2000 -- to discuss co-operation on energy and financial services and the possible expansion of air links.

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