Islam Karimov (file photo) (AFP)
UNITED NATIONS, September 15, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has downplayed the significance of an award given by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
Responding to a question from RFE/RL, spokesman Yves Sorokobi said on September 14 that the prize was a simple medallion that can be bought by anyone at the UNESCO souvenir shop in Paris.
"It's not an award, it's not a distinction, that speaks for the human rights activities of the president of Uzbekistan," Sorokobi added.
International human rights organizations have criticized UNESCO's decision to award the "Borobudur" gold medal to Karimov, whom the groups have long described as a human rights violator.
UNESCO said it had presented the award to Karimov for the president's contribution to "strengthening friendship and cooperation between the nations, development of cultural and religious dialogue, and supporting cultural diversity."
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