UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said that he "is saddened" to learn of the death of Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, and he extended his sincere condolences to the bereaved family of President Karimov, the government and the people of Uzbekistan.

"The secretary-general pays tribute to the late president's efforts to develop strong ties between Uzbekistan and the United Nations as well as strengthen regional and global peace and security, through the promotion and entry into force in 2009 of the Treaty to establish the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, " said a statement issued here by Ban's spokesman.

"The secretary-general reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to continue working closely with the government and the people of Uzbekistan," the statement said.

Karimov died on Friday at the age of 78 after being hospitalized following a stroke on Aug. 27, the Uzbek government confirmed.

His funeral will be held on Saturday in the historic town of Samarkand, where he was born, a government statement said, adding that a three-day period of mourning would start on the same day.

Karimov, who had served as president of the newly independent republic since 1991, suffered a brain hemorrhage on Saturday. Enditem