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(RFE/RL) 14 November 2005 -- European Union governments today banned arms sales to Uzbekistan, and imposed a one-year visa ban on 12 top Uzbek officials.

The move is a response to what the EU sees as the Uzbek government's responsibility for the deaths of possibly hundreds of people in a clash between protesters and security forces in the eastern city of Andijon in May.

The list of officials banned from entering the EU includes Interior Minister Zakirdzhon Almatov, Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov, and the head of the National Security Service, Rustam Inoyatov.

The European Council, the EU decision-making body, said the visa ban is "aimed at those individuals who are directly responsible for the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in Andijon," and also for obstructing an independent inquiry of the incident.

According to the Uzbek government, 187 people -- including soldiers, officials, civilians, and terrorists -- died in a battle in Andijon in May. Rights groups and some Western governments have said they believe hundreds more people may have been killed -- mostly unarmed civilians -- in shooting by Uzbek security forces.

The EU arms embargo covers arms and other equipment that might be used for internal repression.

(Reuters)
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