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U.S. Withholds Aid To Uzbekistan Over Rights

14 July 2004 -- The United States government has announced it is withholding up to $18 million in aid to Uzbekistan over concerns about democratic reforms and human rights in the Central Asian country.

The step comes after the U.S. State Department last month described Uzbekistan's overall rights record as "very poor," citing serious abuses and deaths of suspects in detention, as well as the reluctance of authorities to register opposition political parties.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that the United States is "disappointed" by the lack of progress in Uzbekistan. He said, however, that Uzbekistan remains an important partner of the United States in the war on terrorism, and that the two countries have many shared strategic goals.

Uzbekistan allows the United States to use an air base for military operations in neighboring Afghanistan.