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Uzbek Authorities Label Soros Foundation 'Undesirable'

Uzbek President Islam Karimov 19 April 2004 -- The Uzbek government said today that George Soros's foundation is "undesirable," one day after the billionaire philanthropist criticized the human rights situation in Uzbekistan and said new regulations are forcing the group's office to close.

Today, Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov said if the foundation was not accredited, it meant the organization's activities in Uzbekistan were undesirable.

Soros said at a meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) yesterday that the Uzbek branch of his Open Society Institute (OSI) is being forced to close after the government declined to renew its registration.

The announcement of the closure of the OSI's Uzbek branch came after the EBRD said earlier this month it is limiting investment in Uzbekistan due to the government's lack of progress on democratic and economic reforms.