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U.S. Hopes For Fair, Transparent Referendum In Kyrgyzstan

Soldiers leave after casting ballots during early voting at a polling station in Osh on June 25.
The United States says it hopes Kyrgyzstan will carry out "a fair and transparent" referendum this weekend on an amended constitution.

Voters in Kyrgyzstan are being asked to vote on June 27 on changes considered vital by the interim government, including a shift toward a parliamentary rather than a presidential system.

The referendum comes after recent unrest in the south of the country that left more than 250 dead and caused tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks to flee to neighboring Uzbekistan.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the embassy in Bishkek will provide a small team of monitors for the elections, along with a larger local and international presence.

But the violence has hindered efforts to increase the international community's short-term monitoring for the vote.

A state of emergency was lifted overnight despite continued tensions between majority Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks.

The international rights group Human Rights Watch warned today that the government's decision to proceed with the referendum risks sparking a resurgence of the violence between majority Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International criticized Uzbek authorities for forcing the refugees to leave their country and warned that Kyrgyz officials are premature in their appeals for people to return to their homes.

compiled from agency reports