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Karimov, Three Others Cleared For Uzbek Presidential Ballot

TASHKENT -- Electoral officials in Uzbekistan have cleared candidates from four political parties to run in a March 29 presidential election.

Government critics say candidates challenging President Islam Karimov will be on the ballot to create a veneer of democracy in the tightly controlled Central Asian state.

At its session on January 19, the Central Election Commission decided "to allow four political parties to take part in presidential election."

The approved candidates are Karimov, of the Liberal Democratic party; Khatamjan Ketmonov of the People's Democratic Party; Narimon Umarov of the Social Democratic Adolat (Justice) party, and Akmal Saidov of the Democratic National Renaissance Party.

None of the parties opposes Karimov, a former Soviet apparatchik who has ruled the nation of 29 million since 1990, the year before Uzbekistan gained independence in the Soviet collapse.

Karimov's government tolerates little dissent and has been accused of frequent human rights abuses.