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Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are among the worst human rights offenders in the world, according to a new report released on Wednesday.

'The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2006' is an annual compilation of the most dictatorial regimes in the world by Freedom House that has called on the UN Human Rights Council to address abuses in eight countries, including Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

"This report should be viewed as the minimal 'to do' list to be addressed by members of the UN Human Rights Council and those governments that profess to care about human rights," Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, told members of the House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Africa, Human Rights and Global Operations.

"The Council urgently needs to prove that it can and will act in a constructive manner in furtherance of its mandate, and will be judged on its willingness and ability to take action to address country and situation-specific human rights violations," she added.

In Tajikistan, Tracy Jackobson, the new US ambassador to Dushanbe, urged the poor Central Asian nation on Monday to make more progress toward democratic standards during upcoming presidential elections pledging more development aid, AP reported.

Jackobson expressed hope that the 6 November presidential vote in the country would be "close to world standards", and that all candidates would have equal access to the media. Jackobson also said that the US intended to switch from humanitarian to development projects in the mountainous ex-Soviet republic and was ready to help develop it reach its huge hydropower potential.

Some reports claimed that Tajik authorities were tightening control over media ahead of the vote. Rakhmonov, who came to power in 1994 during the country's civil war, tolerates little dissent and in 2003 pushed through a referendum that could allow him to stay in power until 2020 if re-elected. He is widely expected to run again.

Japan granted Tajikistan US $5 million for rebuilding a key road that will strengthen ties to neighbouring Afghanistan, AFP reported on Tuesday.

The Japanese embassy said in a statement that the road - which is 27 km long and connects to a bridge over the Panji River that is also being built - would "strengthen regional economic integration and cooperation".

The separate building of a 670 metre bridge over the Panji River to Afghanistan is being supported by the United States with financing of $30 million.

The Japanese donation came as Tokyo tries to strengthen ties with the ex-Soviet Central Asian states, reflected in a visit last month by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

In Kazakhstan, a senior British diplomat signaled on Wednesday that the UK government could support Kazakhstan's bid to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), English Politics News reported.

European Affairs Minister Geoffrey Hoon said, however, that they had not yet made up their mind whether to back Kazakhstan's candidacy when the trans-Atlantic security group's 55 member countries meet in December to decide on the bid. "We believe that ultimately the Kazakh chair of the OSCE would be good for all of us," Hoon said in the Kazakh commercial capital, Almaty.

Kazakhstan is seeking to take over the group's revolving chairmanship in 2009, but critics say the nation has never had free elections and opposition groups are suppressed. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in power for 17 years, was re-elected in balloting in December that OSCE observers called flawed.

A former Kyrgyz parliamentary speaker and critic of the president was detained at the airport in Warsaw, Poland, with 600 grams of heroin in his possession, Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. In a statement, the ministry said the heroin was found hidden inside a wooden Russian matryoshka doll in Omurbek Tekebayev's luggage when he passed through customs control on arrival at Warsaw airport on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the border guards at Warsaw's Frederic Chopin airport, Wojciech Zachariasz, said that officers found just under 600 grams in the registered luggage of a Kyrgyz citizen with a diplomatic passport who arrived Tuesday night. He did not name the person.

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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