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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Uzbek capital's centre blocked
By Monica Whitlock
BBC News, Tashkent

The authorities in Uzbekistan have begun a major restructuring programme in Tashkent, removing several main roads and blocking off the city centre.

Officials have given no public explanation for the changes, which are proving extremely unpopular.

But it is widely believed that the move has been designed to prevent any kind of assault on government buildings.

Uzbekistan borders Kyrgyzstan, where last month crowds of opposition supporters overthrew the government.

Tashkent is being transformed at astonishing speed.

Several major roads in the centre have simply disappeared, replaced by instant parks in just a few hours.

The main artery that runs past Government House has been blocked off, and tramlines have been ripped out.

Forced out of the centre, traffic has been jammed into the side roads, with frantic policemen waving cars away from routes that no longer exist.

The chaos is the talk of the town. Residents have not been told why this is happening, nor what the overall plan will be.

They complain about spending an hour getting home instead of a few minutes.

Some angry motorists are abandoning their cars and walking. Most of all, people resent the complete lack of consultation over the changes.

Tashkent, home to 2.5 million people, is by far the largest city in Central Asia and was one of the largest in the Soviet Union.

Some features like the historic tramways are very popular and a source of civic pride.

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