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US Sending Envoy to Kyrgyzstan to Discuss Crisis

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is dispatching a senior U.S. diplomat to Kyrgyzstan later this week to discuss that country's aid requirements amid the explosion of ethnic violence in recent days. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake is already traveling in the region.

Assistant Secretary Blake will go to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on Friday after first visiting Uzbekistan for a first-hand look at the situation along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border where thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have fled to escape the violence that has raged for several days.

The State Department says Blake, who is in Ashgabat with other U.S. officials for a dialogue with leaders of Turkmenistan, spoke by telephone with Kyrgyzstan's interim leader Roza Otunbayeva Tuesday to discuss his travel plans.

The United States has thus far provided the Kyrgyz government with about $1 million in emergency medical supplies from an embassy contingency fund.

But briefing reporters, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley made clear that the United States is prepared to give considerably more as part of what he stressed should be a coordinated, international, aid effort.

"We are focused on this, and will be responding to the needs both on the Kyrgyzstan side and on the Uzbekistan side," said Crowley. "That is one of the reasons why Bob Blake is expanding his existing travel, not only to be able to see first-hand the situation along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, but also to consult directly with Kyrgyz officials later this week."

Crowley said the United States is discussing the Kyrgyz situation with Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has said it is ready to help solve the crisis.

Moscow has turned down an appeal from the Bishkek government for peacekeeping troops and spokesman Crowley indicated the United States has also told Kyrgyz authorities that assistance should be multi-lateral.

"We have had these kinds of conversations with Kyrgyz officials already," added Crowley. "Our advice to the interim president was to work through the OSCE and the UN. And we will be working with those bodies directly to see how we can best support Kyrgyzstan."

Interim President Otunbayeva has said a national referendum on a new constitution will take place as planned on June 27th despite the violence, which has killed at least 170 people and displaced more than 200,000 others.

Crowley said the United States is committed to Kyrgyzstan and wants to be supportive of the country, which he said has a very challenging road ahead in terms of putting in place a new government.