Azerbaijan's leader names his wife first vice president

Azerbaijan's president has appointed his wife as the first vice president of the ex-Soviet nation.

Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday named his wife Mehriban to the position created after a constitutional referendum in September. She has served as a lawmaker and headed a charity in the past.

Aliyev has firmly allied the energy-rich Shia Muslim nation with the West, helping secure its energy and security interests and offset Russia's influence in the strategic Caspian region. At the same time, his government has long faced criticism in the West for alleged human rights abuses and suppression of dissent.

Aliyev's critics saw September's referendum that also extended the presidential term from five to seven years as effectively cementing a dynastic rule. Aliyev succeeded his father in 2003.