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Uzbekistan Accuses U.S. Of Unwarranted Interference


http://gdb.rferl.org/C53BFF29-89D3-4E6C-892A-A9A93E6EB75E_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/C53BFF29-89D3-4E6C-892A-A9A93E6EB75E_mw800_mh600.jpg Uzbek President Islam Karimov (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) November 24, 2006 -- Uzbekistan has reacted angrily to its inclusion on a U.S. list of countries that it says violate religious freedom, accusing Washington of "double standards."

Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry also said today that the decision by the U.S. State Department to include Tashkent on the list, issued in mid-November, was an example of unwarranted interference in internal Uzbek affairs.

An Uzbek government website declares that the move "again shows the one-sided approach and double standards of U.S. foreign policy."

The United States and some international rights groups have accused Uzbek officials of persecuting innocent Muslims and stifling independent voices in the name of countering extremism.

"It is clear that many of those harassed, abused, tortured, and convicted of membership in extremist organizations are simply observant Muslims," AP quoted U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John V. Hanford III as saying.

After early cooperation in the U.S.-led war to oust the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in neighboring Afghanistan, relations between the United States and Uzbekistan have grown increasingly frosty.

Western governments have unsuccessfully pressed for an independent investigation into a bloody crackdown in eastern Uzbekistan in which eyewitnesses claim government troops killed hundreds of innocent demonstrators.

Tashkent also evicted U.S. military forces in late 2005 from an Uzbek base that was being used to support continuing operations in Afghanistan.

Tashkent and Washington also squared off on the United Nations, where Uzbekistan mustered opposition to a Western-backed resolution criticizing human rights violations in that country.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton called that vote "a disappointment" for Washington.

(AFP, AP)
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