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EBRD plans 15 more Uzbekistan projects over next year

TASHKENT, Nov 11 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has just resumed lending in Uzbekistan, plans 15 more projects in the Central Asian nation in the next 12 months, EBRD first vice president Phil Bennett said on Saturday.

Bennett reopened an EBRD office in the former Soviet republic this week and agreed four loans worth $125 million in total, the bank's first new financing in the country since 2010.

Re-engaging the EBRD was one of the first big moves by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who came to power last December and announced an ambitious program of economic reforms.

Bennett told reporters in the Uzbek city of Samarkand that the bank's operations in the mostly Muslim nation bordering Afghanistan were "going fast."

"We have some further 15 projects in our pipeline for the next 12 months," he said.

"This is a particularly exciting time to be here."

The Uzbek loans have brought total EBRD lending in Central Asia this year to $1 billion, Bennett said. Uzbekistan's neighbor Kazakhstan, which has a bigger economy thanks to enormous oil and metals reserves, has traditionally been the bank's main partner in the region.

But the EBRDs head of Kazakhstan operations, Agris Preimanis, told Reuters last month the bank was close to hitting its limit on lending to one counterparty - Kazakh sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna.

Because of that limit and because Samruk-Kazyna is omnipresent in Kazakhstan's main industries, the EBRD may have to reduce lending volumes in the country, he said. (Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alexander Smith)