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Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Dominate Akaev-Bush Talks

Washington, 24 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev says he outlined steps his country is taking toward promoting democracy during a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush. Akaev and Bush met yesterday at the White House to discuss Kyrgyzstan's human rights record, the war on terrorism, and economic issues.

After the meeting, Akaev told reporters he was "greatly satisfied" with the talks. Kyrgyzstan has been a U.S. ally against the war on terror and has allowed the U.S. to use an airbase for its operations in Afghanistan.

In a joint written statement, Bush and Akaev spoke of the need to promote human rights and of their desire to strengthen democratic institutions and processes, such as a civil society, independent media, local government, political pluralism, and free and fair elections.

Kyrgyzstan has been harshly criticized by many human rights organizations for trying to contol the media, repressing civil organizations and opposition politicians, most obviously by jailing them on what many say are trumped up charges.

Earlier, Akaev met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the State Department.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said the Kyrgyz human-rights issue was a major topic of discussion. Boucher said Akaev gave Powell a lengthy statement on human rights in Kyrgyzstan, pointing to some of the things that he had done, including the terms of drafting a new constitution, which has also not been without controversy.

"The secretary (Powell) also stressed to President Akaev the importance of implementing political and economic reforms -- especially democratic reforms and protection of human rights -- as a basis for development, for stability, and also for cooperation with the United States."

There have been protest actions around Kyrgyzstan this year. The shooting deaths of five antigovernment demonstrators in March caused an outcry that led to the government's resignation.