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Uzbekistan Ends Border Standoff with Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan said Saturday that Uzbekistan had withdrawn troops from a disputed section of their border, ending a tense standoff lasting more than a week.

Gulmira Borubayeva, the spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz border service told AFP that Uzbekistan "removed its military equipment and troops from the disputed section of the border" on Saturday.

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Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan meet to Defuse Border Tensions

Kyrgyzstan said Friday it was in negotiations with Uzbekistan to defuse week-long tensions over disputed territory at the frontier of the two Central Asian states.

The Friday meeting of the countries' border services was called "at the initiative of the Uzbek side", the Kyrgyz border service said, after increased militarization at a disputed section of the border drew concern from a Russia-led security body earlier this week.

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U.N. Chief Wraps Central Asia Visit, Citing Rights Fears

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon on Saturday warned of a worsening rights situation across Central Asia, as he ended a visit to energy-rich Central Asia in ex-Soviet Turkmenistan.

Ban said he "heard concerns about the deterioration of some aspects of human rights -– a shrinking of democratic space", during his first trip to the region in five years.

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Uzbek Strongman Karimov still Calls the Tune

Uzbekistan's strongman leader Islam Karimov has kept a stranglehold on power in the Central Asian state for a quarter of a century, even at the expense of his own children.

Long lambasted for brutally crushing dissent by rights groups, the former Soviet apparatchik -- in power since 1989 -- has reportedly placed his eldest daughter under house arrest after a bitter family feud, with her compared him to Stalin.

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Landslide Win for Uzbek Strongman in Predictable Poll

Uzbekistan's strongman President Islam Karimov on Monday extended his decades-long grip on power following a weekend poll decried by Western vote monitors as lacking genuine competition.

Karimov, 77, who has ruled over Uzbekistan since 1989, two years before the country gained independence from the Soviet Union, had three challengers.

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Uzbekistan Declares Polls Set to Re-Elect Strongman Karimov Valid

Uzbekistan on Sunday declared its presidential ballot valid after more than the required third of voters turned out in an election that 77-year-old strongman incumbent President Islam Karimov is almost certain to win.

The central electoral commission of the ex-Soviet Central Asian country said 36.55 percent of the 20 million registered voters had cast their votes in the first four hours, passing the threshold of a third stipulated by Uzbek law for an election to be valid.

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Tajikistan's Islamic Party under 'Total Pressure' ahead of Vote

An opposition Islamic party in ex-Soviet Tajikistan says the government has cracked down on its politicians ahead of March 1 parliamentary polls in the mainly Muslim but secular country.

Tajikistan, the poorest state to emerge from the Soviet Union, has been led by strongman President Emomali Rakhmon since 1992 and his National Democratic Party of Tajikistan is expected to sweep the polls.

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Uzbekistan Backs Poetry Readings to Replace 'Alien' Valentine's

Uzbekistan is urging young people to shun "alien" Valentine's Day traditions such as sending cards, saying they should instead enjoy the love poetry of a 15th-century warrior-prince.

The Central Asian country has turned February 14 into "national poetry day," as the government attempts to combat what it calls the "pernicious influence" of Western mass culture.

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Uzbek Journalist Freed after 5 Years in Jail for 'Extremism'

A popular Uzbek journalist who hosted a radio show on Islam has been released under a presidential amnesty after serving five years in jail on religious extremism charges, relatives told Agence France-Presse Thursday.

Khayrullo Hamidov, 39, was sentenced to six years in jail in May 2010 under a law banning "illegal establishment of public associations or religious organizations" in the majority-Muslim Central Asian country.

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Thousands from Ex-Soviet Central Asia 'Fighting for Islamic State'

Up to four thousand people from Muslim former Soviet Central Asian countries are believed to have joined Islamic State jihadists, a report published on Tuesday said.

Often driven by poverty, some "2,000 to 4,000 have in the past three years turned their back on their secular states to seek a radical alternative," the International Crisis Group said in a briefing on the region.

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