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Britain To Keep Pressing Uzbekistan On Rights

Uzbek soldiers on the streets of Andijon a day after the bloodshed (file photo) (epa) PRAGUE, May 10, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that his country will continue pressuring Uzbekistan to improve its human rights record.

Blair said Britain will try to strengthen punitive measures already in place against Uzbekistan -- including an EU arms embargo and a visa ban on Uzbek officials thought to be responsible for last year's military crackdown in Andijon.

Blair's comments come on the first anniversary of the start of protests in Uzbekistan, which culminated on May 13 when Uzbek authorities put down what they described as an armed insurgency.

Official figures put the number of dead at 187.

But witnesses and international human rights groups describe the killings as a massacre and say the death toll was much higher. Many unarmed civilians were, they claim, among the dead.

Human rights campaigners plan to mark the anniversary with protests later this week -- on May 12 and 13 -- in Moscow, Kyiv, London, Brussels, and Bishkek.

Uzbekistan, Russia, And The West

Uzbekistan, Russia, And The West

President Karimov (left) with Russian President Putin in July 2005 (epa)

BETWEEN EAST AND WEST: One of the ramifications of the May 2005 bloodshed in Andijon has been a souring of relations between Tashkent and the West, accompanied by a raproachment between Uzbekistan and Russia. Following sharp U.S. and European criticism of the Andijon crackdown, Uzbekistan kicked the United States out of the Karshi-Khanabad air base and began actively courting Moscow.
"Today, we are reaching an unprecedented level in our relationship," Uzbek President Islam Karimov said during a November 2005 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, at which the leaders signed a strategic-partnership agreement. "I understand and we all understand in Uzbekistan that it is unprecedented that Russia signs such a partnership agreement with Uzbekistan."


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THE COMPLETE STORY: A dedicated webpage bringing together all of RFE/RL's coverage of the events in Andijon, Uzbekistan, in May 2005 and their continuing repercussions.


For an annotated timeline of the Andijon events and their repercussions, click here.

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