Richard Boucher, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia (file photo) (RFE/RL)
TASHKENT, August 10, 2006 (RFE/RL) – Richard Boucher, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, has cautioned Uzbek authorities against making moves that could prompt American companies to leave the country.
Zarafshan-Newmont, a U.S.-Uzbek gold mining joint venture, earlier on August 3 said Uzbek authorities had frozen its assets and seized part of its output. The move followed an Uzbek court ruling ordering the company to pay $48 million in fines and alleged tax arrears.
Speaking to journalists in Tashkent on August 9, Boucher indicated that the State Department is following the case closely.
He said U.S. "companies are finding it increasingly difficult to do their business here and the actions that are taken with regard to some of these particular situations, I think, will lead other investors to draw conclusions. And therefore I'd say it's important that they be handled carefully and fairly."
Zarafshan-Newmont is co-owned by Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the largest gold producers in the world.
Recent media reports said that the Colorado-based company is considering selling its 50 percent stake in the joint venture.