27 Jun 2010

Kyrgyzstan referendum to proceed

1:04 pm on 27 June 2010

Kyrgyzstan is pressing ahead with a referendum on Sunday on a new constitution despite a recent rise in ethnic tension.

The proposed constitution would give parliament more power and set the stage for a general election in September.

Several hundred people died in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of the country earlier in June.

Estimates of the death toll range from 275 to 2000. An estimated 400,000 people fled their homes.

The interim government called the referendum after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown in April.

Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva said the vote would go ahead and that the country's security forces could ensure a safe vote.

A curfew in Osh, where the trouble broke out, has been lifted. The conflict has abated but the BBC reports Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs remain deeply divided.

Each side accuses the other of starting the unrest.

Ms Otunbayeva's government has blamed Mr Bakiyev for stoking the conflict ahead of the referendum in order to destabilise the interim government.

Mr Bakiyev, who is in exile in Belarus, has rejected this.