About 15 ambassadors are expected to make the trip by air to Andijan on Wednesday, a Foreign Ministry official said.

 

The expected visit comes amid widespread foreign criticism of the Uzbek government over the deaths that occurred in Andijan, and calls by humanitarian groups for access to the country's troubled parts.

 

Britain and the United Nations also urged Tashkent to show restraint and allow humanitarian groups access to the area.

 

Human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, had condemned the crackdown and called on Uzbekistan to allow independent investigation of the events.

 

In a statement released on Monday, Amnesty International condemned the reported use of excessive force against civilians in Andijan, and called on the authorities of Uzbekistan to allow a prompt and independent investigation into the events with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice.

Amnesty International said it was concerned Uzbekistani authorities would use the events in Andijan to justify a further clampdown on dissent and freedom of expression in Uzbekistan, and that this would lead to waves of arbitrary arrests nationwide in the name of "national security" and the "war against terror".

 

Curfew

 

More gunfire was heard early on Tuesday in the eastern Uzbek town of Andijan, days after security forces reportedly killed hundreds of demonstrators, as Washington stepped up pressure on its Central Asian ally to exercise restraint.

 

With the city under an overnight curfew, it was not possible to determine from what direction the shots were coming, or who was firing. The gunfire was intensive and lasted between three and four hours.

 

Karimov blames growing unrest
on Islamic groups in Uzbekistan

 

Later on Tuesday, after sunrise, policemen said several checkpoints, surrounding the regional administration building, were shot at; but declined to say who were shooting.

 

The city was quiet and people could be seen walking about the streets.

 

Tanks were stationed in the city centre, but otherwise Andijan looked normal.

 

The bloodshed in Andijan started last Friday, when weeks-long demonstrations over the trial of 23 local business people, accused of membership in an outlawed Islamist group, boiled over.

 

Uzbekistan's authoritarian President Islam Karimov has blamed Islamic groups for fomenting the unrest, and said soldiers fired only after being shot at. The latest official government information put the toll of the violence at 30.

 

The United States, which has an air base in Uzbekistan it used in operations against the Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan, stepped up calls on its ally to exercise restraint, and urged reforms to defuse the situation.

 

Border crossing

 

The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on all parties concerned to show restraint in the use of force, and to cooperate with a UN emergency team deployed in the region to assist Uzbek refugees fleeing for safety in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

 

Many Uzbeks have tried to enter
Krygyzstan after the violence

There were more reports of violence as scores of Uzbeks tried to cross into Kyrgyzstan after the crackdown in Andijan.

 

A three-member UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) team, from the agency's office in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, confirmed that about 560 Uzbeks had arrived on Saturday in Suzac, in the Jalalabad Oblast region of Kyrgyzstan.

 

Residents of the village of Tesik-Tosh in eastern Uzbekistan said on Monday they saw Uzbek soldiers shoot and kill 13 unarmed people as they tried to flee across the Kyrgyz border.

 

Gunshots were reported late on Sunday in Kara-Suu, a town on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. Kyrgyz authorities reported having detained up to 150 refugees, trying to cross into Kyrgyzstan.

 

A refugee camp set up across the border in Kyrgyzstan was reported to be holding about 900 people late on Sunday.

 

To stem the flow, Kyrgyz authorities have increased border patrols along the Uzbek border.