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Interfax, the Russian News agency, reports that Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev guarantees freedom of religion, but says ‘religious extremism should be sorted out’.

Speaking in Astana at a meeting with Minister for Religious Affairs and Civil Society Nurlan Yermekbayev, Nazarbayev drew attention to the state policy regarding religion and religious organizations and to measures to combat religious extremism, according to the presidential press service. The country has been under continued criticism for suppression of religious minorities.

The president was quoted as saying: “Every condition has been created in this country for the operation of all religious associations, the freedom of religion is guaranteed. We should retain peace in this sphere. However, we should sort out the issue of religious extremism, revise legislation. The ministry is in for a big job”.

Interfax says that Yermekbayev reported to the president on the operations and further plans of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society, noting that the 18 creeds existing in the country have over 3,600 religious associations. Most of the associations are Islamic, he said.

Yermekbayev also told the president about the ministry’s efforts to develop a Kazakh model of interaction between the state and religious associations in conditions preserving ethnic and religious peace and harmony.

Nazarbayev pointed to the current situation in the religious sphere and stressed the role of the ministry and the tasks given to it.

“Previously we did not have such a ministry. It is vital to continue working with religious communities, the nongovernmental sector and youth organizations,” he said.

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