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Uzbekistan Closes Border With Kazakhstan

ASTANA (Reuters) -- Uzbekistan has closed its border with Central Asian neighbor Kazakhstan to all but citizens of each nation returning home, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said today, as swine flu spreads in both countries.

Kazakh media and residents of the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, have connected the move to fears about an outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus, but this has not been confirmed by the authorities there.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on November 20 that Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and parts of Afghanistan were reporting higher numbers of flu cases.

"The initiative did not come from the Kazakh side," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told a briefing. "There is no official information on the reasons behind this decisions."

Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

Tashkent regularly closes its borders with its other neighbors Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan for security reasons before national holidays such as the Constitution Day, marked on December 8.

Parliamentary elections are also due in Uzbekistan next month.