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Berlin, Paris Urge Uzbeks To Let Rights Group Work

HRW representative Igor Vorontsov was prevented from reentering the country.

HRW representative Igor Vorontsov was prevented from reentering the country.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- Germany and France have written a letter to the government of Uzbekistan, urging it to allow a Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative to work in the country.

In the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, French Human Rights Minister Rama Yade and German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler said Uzbekistan should grant work accreditation to HRW representative Igor Vorontsov.

Human Rights Watch said in July that Uzbekistan had barred Vorontsov from the country despite the fact that the EU had made accreditation of an HRW representative a condition for the lifting of sanctions on the Central Asian state.

"We would like to inform you that this decision has caused considerable disappointment and serious concern for us," Yade and Erler said in their letter.

"We would be very grateful if you could find a quick solution, through which Human Rights Watch can send an accredited representative to Tashkent as soon as possible, allowing it to continue its work in Uzbekistan," the letter, dated November 20 and addressed to Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov, said.

Human Rights Watch has said Vorontsov was denied work accreditation and told by the Uzbek authorities while he was abroad that he would not be allowed to return to the country.

Rights groups have been upset by a gradual easing of EU sanctions on Uzbekistan despite a lack of progress on rights.

The European Union agreed in October to end most remaining sanctions on gas-rich Uzbekistan, citing progress in human rights.

The 27-member bloc imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan in 2005, including visa bans on top officials, in response to the killing of demonstrators in the town of Andijon that May. A separate arms embargo on Uzbekistan remains in place.