An Uzbek opposition party has urged voters to boycott next month's parliamentary elections, saying the vote will not be free, fair or democratic.

Otanazar Aripov the head of the Erk opposition party - which the government has barred from the December 26 vote - held a news conference Saturday in Tashkent.

He told reporters the five pro-government parties that will be allowed to contest the election only serve the interests of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Mr. Aripov described what he called the country's official political landscape as a "desert."

Human rights groups have criticized President Karimov's style of government, accusing him of stifling opposition groups and violating human rights. The government says it is committed to fighting what it calls an extremist Islamic insurgency.