Weekly news wrap

In Central Asia this week, hundreds of people took to the streets in southern Kyrgyzstan to protest against the exclusion of an opposition candidate from a run-off parliamentary election, AP reported. Usen Sadykov received 46 percent of the vote during the election on 20 October, but was disqualified from the run-off on 3 November after a court ruled that his documents were not in order. Sadykov has appealed against the decision.

In the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, six protestors were arrested at a march marking the birthday of a jailed opposition leader, Felix Kulov. Among those arrested were two leading human rights activists - Tursunbek Akunov and Aziza Abdrasulova. This was the latest in a series of demonstrations calling for the release of Kulov, jailed in 1999 for 10 years after being found guilty of abuse of office and taking part in opposition demonstrations.

An international conference on fighting drug smuggling in countries along the Great Silk Road ended on Thursday in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. Organised by the World Customs Organisation, the forum was attended by representatives from 30 countries seeking to draw up a programme aimed at solving the problem.

During discussions, participants established the existence of hitherto undiscovered channels through which Afghan heroin, marijuana and opium are being smuggled through Central Asian countries, according to local media reports. Dealers had been forced to open up new routes to cope with increased production, reports said. Agreement reached at the gathering included the convening of regular meetings to exchange relevant information collected.

A high-level meeting in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat to discuss the future of the trans-Afghan pipeline was postponed on Monday, because the Pakistani president wrote to say he was unable to attend due to political developments in his country, AFP reported.

The conference, at which Afghan, Pakistani and Turkmen officials were to sign an agreement on the construction of the pipeline was rescheduled to convene after 20 December, the report said. Musharraf had sent a letter to the Turkmen president saying, "Unfortunately, due to a busy schedule, I am unable to leave the country at the time suggested by your excellency."

Meanwhile, in Dushanbe on Wednesday, Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov met the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Koichiro Matsuura, to discuss topics including science, culture, preservation of cultural heritage, innovative technology and communications. Nazarov drew attention to the need for the restoration of buildings related to these categories which were in desperate need of repair, having been deprived of finances for this purpose following the civil war.