President Nursultan Nazarbayev may drop the "stan" from Kazakhstan to distinguish his oil-rich nation from the rest of Central Asia, where the other so-called stans are mostly in poverty.

The world's ninth largest nation by area with a ­population of just 17 million, Kazakhstan is the largest economy of the ­post-Soviet region, which also includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Foreign companies have invested billions of dollars in the nation's mineral wealth since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But Kazakh officials say the vast country of steppes and mountains is still little known in the world.

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Mr Nazarbayev said a new name like Kazakh Eli "The Land of Kazakhs", would be more eye-catching on the map.

"In our country's name, there is this 'stan' ending which other Central Asian nations have as well. But, for instance, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just two million, but whose name lacks the 'stan' ending."