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Kyrgyzstan Seeks Russian Help, But Moscow Says No


Kyrgyzstan's interim president says she has asked Russia to send troops to quell ethnic riots that have killed at least 77 people and wounded many hundreds.

Roza Otunbayeva said Saturday, without outside help, local authorities will not be able to end the violence in the southern city of Osh - the country's second-largest city.

A statement from Moscow said there would be no immediate movement of troops to Kyrgyzstan, but that Russia will send humanitarian aid.

The interim Kyrgyz government has given security forces permission to use deadly force if necessary in areas where a state of emergency has been declared.

Armed gangs have stormed ethnic Uzbek neighborhoods in Osh, setting homes on fire and sending thousands of residents fleeing for the border with Uzbekistan.

The Foreign Ministry in Uzbekistan issued a statement expressing serious concern about the violence, which it says was clearly organized and designed to stoke ethnic tensions.

The Interfax news agency reports Russian President Dmitri Medvedev discussed the situation with his Uzbek counterpart (Islam Karimov) by telephone Saturday.

It is the worst violence in Kyrgyzstan since former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April. Authorities declared a state of emergency Friday.

Authorities say stores have been looted, and food is running out.

More than 1,000 people have been wounded in clashes between the majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbek communities in Osh, which is a stronghold of former president Bakiyev.

There are reports the unrest has spread to the neighboring region of Jalalabad, the scene of violent ethnic clashes last month. Authorities ordered a curfew in the city Saturday.

Earlier, Kyrgyzstan's interim government asked retired police and army officers to travel to Osh to squash the ethnic clashes to prevent them from escalating into a civil war.

Interim leader Otunbayeva has blamed the situation on outside elements. She accused groups, which she did not identify, of seeking to disrupt the constitutional referendum scheduled for later this month on reducing presidential powers.

Russia and China have called for a quick end to the unrest, which has raised concerns about the stability of a country that hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases.

A spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said a security grouping of former Soviet nations, the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), will meet Monday to discuss the violence.

The U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan is a key hub for military aircraft ferrying troops and supplies for the war in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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