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UN Urges Kyrgyz Government to Quell Ethnic Violence

The United Nations is urging Kyrgyzstan to quell ethnic violence in the south that has forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes.

Officials say the riots targeting ethnic Uzbeks has killed at least 170 people and wounded more than 1,700 others in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad. Red Cross officials say the death toll is much higher.

Relief agencies on Tuesday began delivering aid to affected areas.

Kyrgyzstan's interim leader Roza Otunbayeva said Tuesday a national referendum on a new constitution would take place as planned, despite the violence.

The U.N. and the European Union had urged Kyrgyzstan not to allow the unrest to derail the referendum and parliamentary elections set for October. Meanwhile the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human rights said it had evidence suggesting the violence was coordinated and began with five simultaneous attacks in Osh late Thursday.

The south is a power base for former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in an April 7 uprising that killed 85 people. The deposed leader, who has taken refuge in Belarus, has denied interim leaders' allegations that his supporters fomented the ethnic violence.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with Ms. Otunbayeva and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Tuesday to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Kyrgyzstan. Mr. Ban said he appreciated Russia's efforts to deal with the situation.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters. CORRECTION: In the original version of this story, we incorrectly reported that the intermin leader of Kyrgyzstan said peacekeepers were not needed. VOA regrets the error.