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UN Presses Western Countries to Take Uzbek Refugees

Uzbek women sit in a tent at a bleak refugee camp 40 kilometers from the Uzbek border
The U.N. refugee agency says it is pressing western governments to grant asylum to some 450 Uzbeks who fled to Kyrgyzstan after an uprising was bloodily suppressed in their homeland.

The agency is meeting in Geneva with countries that have a tradition of taking in exiles, including Nordic nations, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

A spokesman for the agency says resettlement of the asylum seekers could be organized in a matter of days once agreement has been reached with governments.

Assistant High Commissioner for refugees, Kamel Morjane, recently traveled to Kyrgyzstan, amid signs that the Kyrgyz government might deport some of them to Uzbekistan where they could face torture.

Uzbek authorities have accused some of the refugees of having Islamic militant ties and have been pressing Kyrgyzstan for their return.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.