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Afghan Official Cites Concern Over Uzbek Instability

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah (file photo) Washington, 27 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says his government remains concerned over a possible escalation of violence stemming from the events in eastern Uzbekistan nearly two weeks ago. In comments to a group of foreign-policy specialists yesterday, Abdullah also repeated that he believes some Muslim extremists in Uzbekistan formerly linked to the Taliban had a role in antigovernment actions in Andijon.

Abdullah said his country is looking with concern at events in Uzbekistan as it tries to consolidate democratic reforms and its reconstruction effort at home.

He told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent policy institute, that the disturbances in Andijon posed a difficult problem for any government.

Abdullah declined to say whether the Uzbek regime’s use of force, which killed as many as hundreds of people, was excessive. But he said he hoped the Uzbek government can avoid further violence.

"Dealing with the issue of Uzbekistan, while [keeping] stability in mind as a priority, at the same time, [one must make] sure that out of the actions which have been taken the situation doesn’t further destabilize and deteriorate and we don’t enter into a sort of a vicious circle, that more instability, more bloodshed, doesn’t happen," Abdullah said.

Abdullah repeated comments he made last week in Japan in which he linked extremists said to be responsible for the Andijon disturbances to Uzbeks who were allied with the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan.

"In regards to the situation in Uzbekistan, while there is an overall situation, there is also the element of extremism in extremist groups which are the products of that period [when] Afghanistan was ruled by extremist elements," Abdullah said. "Those are the remnants of that agenda, in that program."

Afghanistan itself continues to cope with remnants of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban at a time when central government control remains weak. Security remains a constant concern and the government is expected to seek new assistance from international forces to help prepare for parliamentary elections in September.

Abdullah said the government could undermine support for extremists by delivering on promises to improve the pace of reconstruction, human-rights reform, and other areas.

"The ability of extremist elements to call the shots in some cases will depend on our performance, whether we can deliver on the issues of governance, on the expectations of the people when it comes to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, on the security and the environment security of the people, certain freedoms which the people expect," Abdullah said.

Abdullah was in Washington in the wake of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent visit. Karzai and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to a "strategic partnership" aiming to ensure long-term cooperation between the two governments. In their memorandum of understanding, Bush pledge continued help to strengthen security forces, democracy, and the Afghan economy.

[For more RFE/RL coverage and analysis of events in Afghanistan, click here. To see our special page on recent unrest in Uzbekistan, click here.]