June 3, 2005: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Alert Net: Uzbekistan faces renewed violence, experts say

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Uzbekistan: Peace Corps Uzbekistan : The Peace Corps in Uzbekistan: June 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Seattle Post Intelligencer: U.S. has word of potential terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan, possibly against U.S. interests : June 3, 2005: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Alert Net: Uzbekistan faces renewed violence, experts say

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Uzbekistan faces renewed violence, experts say

Uzbekistan faces renewed violence, experts say

Uzbekistan faces renewed violence, experts say

Uzbekistan faces renewed violence, experts say
03 Jun 2005 19:48:58 GMT
Source: Reuters
By David Morgan

Caption: Uzbekistan on June 2 2005 rejected fresh Western pressure over violence last month in which many civilians were reported killed, telling NATO and the rest of the world it saw no grounds for an international inquiry. NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer on June 2 condemned reported use of excessive force by Uzbek troops in the eastern town of Andizhan and NATO parliamentarians urged member states to halt support for the Uzbek armed forces unless a probe was conducted. Residents walk past vehicles burnt during the unrest in the eastern Uzbek town of Andizhan. File photo taken May 13, 2005. Photo by Staff/Reuters

WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - Uzbekistan, a key Central Asian ally in the U.S. war on terrorism, is likely to see destabilizing violence due to widespread discontent over economic stagnation and political repression, U.S. experts said on Friday.

They said Uzbek President Islam Karimov showed no signs of making economic reforms that could ease the popular discontent, and meanwhile his government has ruthlessly suppressed religious and other freedoms and imprisoned more than 5,500 people, often on the basis of confessions obtained through torture.

The United States has joined other countries and the United Nations in urging an international inquiry into a bloody government crackdown at a May 13 protest rally, and said it expects Uzbekistan to honor human rights.

But Karimov's government provides the United States with an air base to support operations in Afghanistan. The Uzbek leader has rejected calls for an inquiry and defends his tough methods by saying he wants to prevent militant Islam from taking hold.

"Those who imagine that Karimov will provide some sort of stability for this country are extremely misguided," said Robert Templer, Asia director for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

"What we have to do is start thinking about how we would cope with a significant rise in violence in this country. What would we do if Uzbekistan breaks out into a civil war?" Templer said at a forum on Uzbekistan hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Michael Cromartie, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, agreed that the former Soviet republic faces potentially destabilizing violence verging on civil war.

"That's where it is," said Cromartie, whose commission was established by Congress in 1998 to monitor religious freedom worldwide. "In light of the man ruling the country, I would expect more violence."

Washington may have to threaten to stop all aid and abandon its air base in order to bring about change, Cromartie said after the forum.

The Uzbek government on Thursday rejected growing Western pressure for an international probe of recent violence.

Witnesses say that about 500 people, mostly civilians, were killed on May 13 when troops put down a revolt in the eastern town of Andizhan. Uzbek authorities dispute those reports, saying the death toll was 173 and consisted mostly of "terrorists".

Templer said further violence could quickly spread to neighboring Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan has already accepted nearly 500 Uzbek refugees who fled their homeland after last month's violence.

"One very clear thing we know about contemporary conflicts is that they cross borders very, very rapidly," he said.

Reports of May's violence brought widespread international denunciation.

U.S. President George W. Bush has called on the Uzbek government to honor human rights, but his administration has not addressed Tashkent with a unified voice, Cromartie said.

The Central Asian nation continues to receive U.S. military aid, he said, despite the State Department's 2004 decision to withhold $18 million in funding as punishment for what it called an unacceptable human rights record.

"U.S. statements and actions should be coordinated across agencies ... to ensure that U.S. concerns about human rights are consistently reflected in all the dealings of the United States government," he said.

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