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Uzbek President Says 'Foreign Powers' Behind Arab Uprisings

Uzbek President Islam Karimov (file photo)
Uzbek President Islam Karimov (file photo)
Uzbek President Islam Karimov says the popular uprisings in North African and Middle Eastern countries this year have been instigated by "foreign powers" who want to control the region's natural resources, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Karimov, who spoke on May 9 on national television, is the first Uzbek official to comment on the popular revolts that have taken place in such countries as Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya since January.

Many Uzbeks were likely surprised that Karimov raised the issue, because there have been absolutely no reports in the state-controlled Uzbek media about the revolutionary events in the Arab world that have seen longtime rulers such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ousted from power.

Karimov -- who is 73 years old and has been president since 1990 -- said his conclusion about the revolts was that "the disruption of peace in Arab countries, to incite [the people] against each other, no doubt, it's not possible without [foreign] influence. This is definitely coming from [the world's] big powers."

Speaking on "Memory Day," Uzbekistan's version of Victory Day, Karimov said in the interview that he couldn't believe that in countries with "such great wealth [in natural resources] this kind of disruption, violence, and clashes could occur spontaneously."

The Uzbek leader went further, aligning the causes of the Arab uprisings with those of the Andijon massacre in southern Uzbekistan on May 13, 2005, when Uzbek security forces opened fire on protesters and killed hundreds.

He noted that Uzbekistan also possesses vast resources of gas, oil, gold, and uranium. "Foreign powers were behind the Andijon uprising, too," he said.

Karimov once more warned Uzbeks to be vigilant and stay alert for interference by "dark forces" from outside the country and to keep an eye on the younger generations.