Kyrgyzstan leader pledges to bring conflict under control

Kyrgyzstan leader pledges to bring conflict under control

Kyrgyzstan's acting prime minister insisted Tuesday the government could bring the inter-ethnic violence in her country under control - whilst admitting the death toll could be many times higher than the official tally of 171, dpa reported.

Since clashes broke out last Thursday between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgys in the ex-Soviet central Asian republic, reports have put the death toll at up to 2,000 civilians, with up to 100,000 refugees fleeing the fighting.

Acting prime minister Rosa Otunbayeva said on Tuesday that a planned referendum on a new constitution for the strife-torn country would go ahead as planned on June 27.

"The country needs a future," she said in the capital, Bishkek.

Most of the fighting and looting has been centred on the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad, where witness speak of bodies on the street, mass graves of unidentified corpses and fires burning in buildings.

"The conflict in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad is slowing," she added. Otunbayeva has repeatedly requested help from Russian forces stationed in the country to halt the bloodshed, but to no avail.

She added a call for international assistance in humanitarian aid, and transporting the wounded abroad for treatment.

In New York, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said the violence was pre-planned and well orchestrated. She called for Kyrgyz forces to "protest the people in the country regardless of ethnicity by rapid and decisive action."

"We have known for years that this region is a potential powder keg. It is therefore very important to that those responsible decide to stop the fighting, which is well-orchestrated," she added.

That was echoed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which called the mass killings "an attempt at ethnic cleansing."

Earlier Tuesday neighbouring Uzbekistan closed its border with Kyrgyzstan, after tens of thousands of Uzbek refugees fled the inter- ethnic violence.

"We simply have no more capacity," Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Aripow told the CA news agency.

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