The United Nations urged Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday to prevent the spread of "indiscriminate" ethnic violence in the region bordering Afghanistan and said the number of refugees fleeing the clashes may soon exceed 100,000.
At least 170 people have been killed in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad in the deadliest ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in 20 years. Witnesses said "gangs" armed with automatic rifles, iron bars and machetes set fire to houses and shot fleeing residents.
The clashes began on Thursday night and escalated over the weekend.
United Nations Special Envoy Miroslav Jenca said Kyrgyzstan should take every step possible to ensure that violence did not spread to other parts of ex-Soviet Central Asia, a vast Muslim region north of Afghanistan and Iran.
"The most important task now is to stop the bloodshed," Jenca told reporters. "This conflict should be localised."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged local and national authorities in Kyrgyzstan to take "swift and decisive action" to protect citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin.
"It seems indiscriminate killings, including of children, and rapes have been taking place on the basis of ethnicity," Ms. Pillay said in a statement issued late on Monday.
U.N. political chief Lynn Pascoe called for the urgent creation of a humanitarian corridor to ensure aid was delivered to victims of the violence. A Reuters reporter said Osh appeared calm on Tuesday.
But the interim government, which assumed power after the president was overthrown in April, was bracing for violence in the capital Bishkek and another region of the north, which is separated from the densely populated south by mountains.
It has accused supporters of the ousted president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, of stoking ethnic conflict. Bakiyev, who is in exile in Belarus, has denied this allegation.
Almazbek Atambayev, deputy leader of the interim government, called the violence in Osh "premeditated" and said "provocative acts" were to be expected in the Chui region and Bishkek.
"But we are well prepared for this," Atambayev added.
"No Russia-led troops"
The Russia-led CSTO security bloc does not plan to send peacekeeping forces to Kyrgyzstan to help quell ethnic violence that has killed at least 170 people, interim Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbayeva said on Tuesday.
"The introduction of peacekeeping forces has so far been deemed inexpedient," Otunbayeva said, referring to talks on Monday between officials of the post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Washington uses its air base at Manas in the north of the republic, about 300 km (190 miles) from Osh, to supply forces occupying nearby Afghanistan.
The White House said U.S. officials had been in close contact with their Russian counterparts about the situation. The U.S. base was unaffected by the turmoil in the south.
The United Nations said it had received information from the Uzbek authorities that 75,000 refugees had massed on the Uzbek side of the border. "But this number is rising and may soon pass 100,000 people," Jenca said.
He said aid deliveries had been thwarted by the violence.
The violence is the deadliest in southern Kyrgyzstan since 1990, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent troops to Osh after hundreds of people were killed in a dispute that started over land ownership.
"Bakiyev's son arrested"
Speaking on Monday in Belarus, Bakiyev called on the CSTO to send in troops and urged "brotherly" Kyrgyz and Uzbeks to make peace, saying the leaders who had replaced him were incapable of restoring order.
British authorities arrested Bakiyev's son, Maxim, after he landed at Farnobrough airport in southern England, Kyrgyz news agency Akipress reported on Monday, citing Kyrgyz Security Chief Keneshbek Dushibayev.
"Referendum to go ahead"
The United Nations and the European Union also urged the interim government to stick to plans for a referendum on June 27 and parliamentary elections in October.
"The European Union insists that the process of legitimising the country's authorities should continue despite the difficulties," said Holger Green, Germany's ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, who also holds the local EU presidency.
Kyrgyzstan's government will go ahead with a national on a new constitution on June 27 despite the violence, Otunbayeva told journalists in Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan intertwine in the Ferghana Valley. Uzbeks make up 14.5 percent of Kyrgyzstan's population, but the groups are roughly equal in the Osh and Jalalabad regions.
The interim government said it had helped evacuate foreign citizens including citizens of Turkey, 200 Chinese and 198 Indians and citizens of Pakistan, European Union, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.
Turkey, Pakistan sent aid to the troubled regions, and China was expected to send food and medical supplies on Tuesday.
AgenciesLast Mod: 15 Haziran 2010, 15:00