Monday, November 29, 1999

Kyrgyzstan lurching towards `catastrophe`: UNHCR

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The crisis in Kyrgyzstan could soon become a 'catastrophe' if the international community does not swiftly intervene, the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.Speaking on German radio during a visit to Berlin, Antonio Guterres said: "What is happening is already a tragedy and it could become a catastrophe.""We urgently need to find a political solution ... the country's neighbours and the international community must do everything in their power to help the interim Kyrgyz government restore peace and stability," he added.Uzbek officials have said that over 75,000 people have fled ethnic fighting between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan.Guterres called for international military help, saying that the Kyrgyz authorities were not in a position to control the violence. "In such a situation, a international peace force would be useful."Earlier, a spokesman for the UNHCR said 200,000 people had been displaced within the country in addition to the 75,000 who sought safety in Uzbekistan.A plane carrying the first foreign aid for refugees arrived earlier today in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan, local officials said.

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