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Kyrgyzstan agrees to international probe into violence

During a Franco-German diplomatic visit, Kyrgyzstan's interim president has agreed to an international inquiry into ethnic unrest in the country last month. The OSCE has said it will send a team to watch over the peace.

A crowd gathers around Westerwelle and Kouchner

Westerwelle, left, and Kouchner saw the damage in Osh

Kyrgyzstan's interim president Roza Otunbayeva on Friday invited international investigators to come to the country and examine the causes behind ethnic clashes that may have left as many as 2,000 people dead last month. The official toll is 316.

In a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, Otunbayeva said the next step would be to decide which international group would carry out the inquiry.

"Then we want to get started quickly," the interim president said.

Otunbayeva's agreement comes after the German foreign minister made an explicit call for an investigation on his arrival in the capital Bishkek earlier on Friday.

"We will only achieve stability when the causes are explained," Westerwelle said. "That's why it's necessary for there to be an independent international investigation, so that we can identify those who are really guilty."

Decision possible on Saturday

Westerwelle and Kouchner are both pushing to establish a fact-finding mission at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the city of Almaty in nearby Kazakhstan on Saturday.

Kouchner made his intention to arrange an investigation into the Kyrgyzstan violence clear in the run up to Friday's meeting, saying "we will make a decision tomorrow."

Refugees around a tank and soldiers

Last month's unrest caused thousands to flee Kyrgyzstan

In the meantime, the OSCE has announced that it would send a 52-member unarmed police force to southern Kyrgyzstan to keep an eye on the delicate peace situation. The force would be tasked with assisting in rebuilding efforts and attempting to re-establish trust between the two sides of the conflict.

Roughly 2,000 people are thought to have been killed in clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek populations in the south of Kyrgyzstan in June, with thousands more forced to flee their homes in the fighting.

"When you see the burnt down houses and when you talk to the people, you get an idea of the difficult days, weeks, and months these people have been through," Westerwelle said.

The southern city of Osh was at the epicenter of the violence, and many houses there are still uninhabitable, with people living in tents as the authorities scramble to rebuild.

Author: Mark Hallam (dpa, apn)
Editor: Sean Sinico

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