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Uzbek refugees bound for Romania (file photo) 2 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, today reiterated its call --> /featuresarticle/2005/7/FE03822F-9C1B-4BE4-9E05-17F57FF793FD.html on Kyrgyzstan to not to hand over to Uzbek authorities 15 Uzbeks who fled a military crackdown in Uzbekistan in May.

UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis said the agency is "extremely concerned" about the fate of the 15. She also said that deporting them to Uzbekistan would be a breach of the five-decade old international accord that protects refugees.

Kyrgyzstan has said it will extradite the 15. Uzbekistan accuses some of them of terrorism and belonging to a banned Islamic group.

Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry yesterday strongly criticized the UN for airlifting 440 other Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan to Romania last week.

The refugees also fled violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon in May.

Western governments, the UN, and international rights groups have told Kyrgyzstan that it will be violating international law if it returns refugees to Uzbekistan, where they could face the risk of torture and execution.

(AFP)

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