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Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov just paid a visit to Brussels to meet with officials from the European Union and NATO.

International rights organizations knew about the visit and wrote open letters to EU officials decrying the Uzbek president's reception at EU headquarters and meetings with key officials. International media cited these open letters in which the word "Andijon" came up repeatedly and rightly so. The order to open fire on a crowd of mainly peaceful protesters in the eastern Uzbek city on May 13, 2005, left, officially, nearly 200 people dead. Witnesses said the death toll was several times higher.

Andijon is a topic Karimov has attempted to avoid ever since. But on the eve of his visit to Brussels, Karimov brought the subject up at a government meeting on January 22. "Now that some time has passed, I would like to talk about participants in the Andijon events," Karimov began. "Being the president, I am speaking frankly," he said, before placing the blame on "regional officials" for the chaos that broke out.

"Not paying attention to the situation in Andijon, the engagement of the region's leaders in certain improper activities, them losing themselves and not caring [about the situation], as well as their involvement in dishonest activities," he said, "destroyed such a great number of people."

Karimov's comments, made so soon before his departure for Brussels, seem to have escaped the notice of most international media. Or, maybe they were noticed and simply not believed.

-- Bruce Pannier

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