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UN's Ban To Meet Uzbek President Karimov

Uzbek President Islam Karimov
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled today to meet with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who has ruled the country since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The meeting in Tashkent comes after a recent UN Human Rights Committee report criticized Uzbekistan and called for a fuller investigation of the brutal suppression of a 2005 uprising in the city of Andijon.

Opposition and rights groups claim that hundreds were killed, but authorities insist the reports are exaggerated and angrily reject any criticism.

Ban is on a five-nation tour of Central Asia, his first to the region as UN secretary-general.

One issue Ban is raising is the region's generally poor human rights record.

On April 3, Ban called the drying up of the Aral Sea one of the world's worst environmental disasters, after touring the shrinking sea by helicopter.

He called on regional leaders to do more to solve the problem.

Once the world's fourth-largest lake, the sea has shrunk by 90 percent since the rivers that feed it were largely diverted in a Soviet project to boost cotton production in the arid region.

In a presentation to Ban before his flyover, Uzbek officials complained that dam projects in Tajikistan will severely reduce the amount of water flowing into Uzbekistan. Impoverished Tajikistan sees the hydroelectric projects as potential key revenue earners.

compiled from agency reports