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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 December, 2004, 18:36 GMT
Uzbekistan no-choice poll closes
Uzbek President Islam Karimov
Karimov dominates Uzbekistan at every level
Polls have closed in Uzbekistan's parliamentary elections, with officials announcing a turnout of more than 70%.

State TV carried glowing accounts of the day. But the vote has drawn criticism from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The group - which sent a few observers - expressed concern that no opposition parties were allowed to run.

Many ordinary Uzbeks say they see no difference between the candidates, who all support President Islam Karimov.

Some independents did try to stand, but officials rejected their applications on technical grounds.

Few Uzbeks interviewed in the street could name the parties or distinguish between them, the BBC's Monica Whitlock in Tashkent reports.

Hard line

However, our correspondent adds, praise has been pouring in too from hundreds of monitors - most of them guests of the Uzbek government or Russian-led observers.

Russian officials have called the election transparent, democratic and well-organised.

Uzbekistan is a Muslim country and the most populous state in Central Asia.

The government takes a hard line against political freedom because it fears the emergence of any opposition figure, particularly a leader from the Islamic tradition.

This year, suicide bombers have struck twice at official buildings.

The United States embassy and human rights groups estimate that thousands of ordinary Muslims are in jail, accused of plotting against the government.

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