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Top U.S. Official In Tashkent For Talks --> Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia (file photo) (RFE/RL) PRAGUE, August 8, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A top U.S. diplomat has arrived in Uzbekistan for a two-day visit.

Talking to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service from Tashkent, U.S. Embassy official Abdumalik Ismailov confirmed reports that Richard Boucher, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, had arrived in the Uzbek capital. He gave no further details.

Earlier today, a Uzbek nongovernmental information website, UzMetronom, said Boucher is due to meet with President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov.

Relations between Tashkent and Washington soured after Karimov's government last year demanded that the Pentagon vacate the military airbase it had been using since 2001 for operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

Uzbek authorities have since closed down many U.S. nongovernmental groups operating in the country.

That trend was highlighted again today when the appeals chamber of the Tashkent City Court upheld a decision to close down the local branch of the Urban Institute. A court on July 12 ruled that the Washington-based organization, which specializes on economic and social policy research, should be closed down because it had been engaging in activities outside its stated purpose.

Boucher is due to travel to Kyrgyzstan on August 10.

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

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