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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Foreign envoys visit Uzbek town
A local resident walks past a tank at the centre of the Uzbek town of Andijan, 17 May 2005
The people of Andijan have been living under curfew
Foreign diplomats have been allowed to visit the Uzbek town of Andijan, where troops opened fire on a crowd of protesters last week.

The visitors were taken on a tightly controlled tour of the town but were not allowed to speak to locals.

The Uzbek government said 169 people died in the violence, but a local army source told the BBC 500 were killed.

The nearby border town of Korasuv, which local people seized control of following the violence, remains tense.

A man who appears to in charge of the Korasuv uprising, Bakhtior Rakhimov, told the BBC on Tuesday that the townspeople wanted to establish an Islamic administration, and were willing to fight for their freedom.

He said the people of the region had put up with Uzbek President Islam Karimov for 16 years, and could no longer tolerate him.

In Andijan, the group of diplomats and journalists were keen to see the scene of last week's violence.

But a BBC correspondent in Tashkent says they were given little freedom to investigate the situation for themselves.

UZBEK TROUBLES
An Uzbek woman cries at the grave of her relative in Andijan
Most populous central Asian former Soviet republic, home to 26m people
Ruled since 1991 independence by autocrat Islam Karimov
Accused by human rights groups of serious abuses, including torture
Rocked by violence in capital Tashkent in 2004
Government says radical Islamic groups behind violence

They were flown to Andijan and then taken by bus to various points that illustrated the government's version of Friday's events, our correspondent says.

They saw an army base where they were told a "criminal gang" stole weapons, and a prison which the protesters broke open.

"They're taking us to some of the places we want to see," British ambassador David Moran told the French news agency AFP. "We need to be realistic about how much can be achieved."

Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir Almatov, making a rare appearance, said the authorities had now named the man they believe was behind the violence as Qabuljan Parpiev.

He gave no information about who Mr Parpiev is, or whether he is alive or dead.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What happened has reminded us of the terrible communist crackdown in Tiananmen in China
Sherzod, Uzbekistan

US call for openness

The visit may have been tightly controlled, but the fact it happened at all is a sign of the intense international pressure Uzbek President Islam Karimov is under, in the wake of the killings.

Washington has been under pressure to take a tough line against the repressive Uzbek regime, which is a key US ally in Central Asia.

On Tuesday US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Uzbekistan needed "openness" and "reform".

Last week's violence flared after protesters stormed the town's prison and freed 23 businessmen accused of being Islamic extremists.

Troops then rounded on the protesters, with some locals claiming they fired indiscriminately into the crowd.





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