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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Kyrgyz pledge on Uzbek refugees
Uzbek women dry clothes at a refugee camp at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border
There are concerns for the refugees' health and safety
Kyrgyzstan has reportedly pledged not to expel Uzbek refugees who fled after a violent crackdown on protesters.

The United Nations said the government had given "assurances", following talks between senior officials on both sides.

Around 500 Uzbeks crossed the border and settled in a tent camp in the south of the country after soldiers shot at demonstrators in Andijan on 13 May.

Kyrgyzstan returned scores, but is said to be mulling the resettlement of refugees in another part of the south.

KyrgzInfo news agency quoted a local official as saying the change was prompted by the need to create proper living conditions.

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

Correspondents say there are concerns for the Uzbeks' health and safety.

The camp is near the border between the two countries and the UN refugee agency has asked the Kyrgyz government for permission to move the refugees.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has ruled out an international inquiry into the bloody events in Andijan, despite calls by the US, the UN and other organisations.

Uzbekistan has said 169 people died when soldiers put down a "bandit uprising" in Andijan on 13 May. An army source told the BBC that 500 people were killed.

The unrest began when a group of men stormed the town's prison and freed 23 businessmen accused of being Islamic extremists. A large protest was then staged, joined by hundreds of residents as well as the freed prisoners.

Witnesses said troops fired indiscriminately at civilians in the crowd.


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