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Kazakhstan Says Kyrgyz Unrest Threatens Central Asia

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Violence in Kyrgyzstan could stir ethnic tension in other parts of Central Asia and encourage the growth of drug trafficking and terrorism, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Tuesday.

"Chaos and destabilization in the region play into the hands of criminals engaged in the illegal trade of drugs, arms and human trafficking," Nazarbayev told a forum organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

He said tackling poverty and promoting tolerance among different ethnic groups were crucial to maintaining order in the region next to Afghanistan.

Kazakhstan holds the rotating chair of the OSCE and shares a border with Kyrgyzstan, where nearly 300 people — and possibly hundreds more — were killed in several days of conflict between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks this month.

"The most poignant consequence of the conflict in Kyrgyzstan is that the seeds of mistrust could be sown between other peoples of the region," Nazarbayev told the conference.

"A front is weakening in the war against international terrorism and extremism, the front line of which is in neighboring Afghanistan," he said.

Kyrgyzstan voted in a referendum on Sunday to create the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a region otherwise ruled by authoritarian presidents.

President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that parliamentary rule could lead to factionalism, a power grab by extremist groups or even the collapse of Kyrgyzstan, where both Russia and the United States operate military air bases.

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