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Twenty-six confirmed cases of typhoid were reported in the southern Kyrgyz province of Batken on Thursday, seen by Kyrgyz health officials as a probable extension of a recent outbreak of the disease in neighbouring Tajikistan, in which hundreds of confirmed cases have been registered in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. On Wednesday, Kyrgyzstan strongly rebuffed the European Parliament's criticism of the country's human rights record. "Strong criticism of the government's human rights policies in the European Parliament's resolution is incorrect and biased," the Kyrgyz foreign ministry said in a statement. The European Parliament recently adopted a resolution heavily criticising all five former Soviet republics of Central Asia for their poor human rights records and urged the governments to improve the situation. Going north to Kazakhstan, Dariga Nazarbayeva, the Kazakh president's elder daughter and head of the newly established Asar (All Together) political party, said on Wednesday that she regarded the opposition favourably and that her party would not fight it. "I have a most favourable attitude towards opposition," she said, adding that opposition always helped improve society and never allowed the current authorities to relax. On Wednesday, UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Nobuyasu Abe said on the occasion of Disarmament Week currently being marked worldwide that Kazakhstan was moving in the right direction in terms of disarmament, though it was not easy for it to do this. "Kazakhstan has taken the right decision to get rid of Soviet nuclear armaments and missiles. Its decision to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a nuclear-free state was also correct," he said. Meanwhile, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Monday urged Turkmenistan to cooperate on issues of promoting democracy. "I emphasised to the president that it was important to understand in what sphere the OSCE is working, that all the participating states within the OSCE are driving to become more democratic and open societies," Martti Ahtisaari, the OSCE chairman's personal envoy to Central Asia, said. Turkmenistan officially follows a policy of neutrality, but Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has taken a number of moves to tighten security in the region's most reclusive state since an alleged assassination attempt on him last November. Niyazov on Wednesday reportedly signed a decree giving amnesty to more than 7,000 prisoners in the country. The convicts are expected to be freed on the Muslim Holiday of Id al-Fitr due to be celebrated on 21-22 November, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The amnesty will apply to elderly, young and sick inmates who are not serving terms for violent crimes, but not to recidivists and those convicted of serious crimes. Going further east to Uzbekistan, a group of Muslim women living in the eastern town of Marghilon have reportedly lodged an appeal to the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan asking it to protect their husbands who had been convicted for their religious views, and were being subjected to torture and cruel treatment by staff at Uzbek penitentiaries, the Russian Prima news agency said on 26 October, thereby again highlighting the issue of torture in Central Asia's most populous nation. In neighbouring Tajikistan, local media reported on Monday that the country had received US $96 million in aid from 40 countries in the first nine months of 2003. Over this period, it received over 146,000 mt of goods, while the nation's executive bodies and international NGOs distributed flour and wheat, vegetable oil and other foodstuffs, as well as clothing, footwear and medicines to low-income people and residents of districts stricken by natural disasters. Most of the humanitarian aid to the country in terms of value came from Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as from the USA, Latvia and Germany. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Tajikistan and the UN's Tajikistan Office of Peace-building (UNTOP) signed agreements on Wednesday on the implementation of joint projects in Tajikistan with the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (SIDA). SIDA will assist the Tajik government in drafting reports on human rights by the country's relevant bodies as part of joint projects with UNTOP and the Tajik presidential executive staff's department on citizens' constitutional rights. SIDA is also expected to assist the UNDP programme on poverty reduction and provide for the economic development of the country's eastern Rasht valley.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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