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Longtime Official Dismissed By Karimov Chosen As Uzbek Prime Minister

Abdulla Oripov previously served as Uzbek deputy prime minister between 2002 and 2012.
Abdulla Oripov previously served as Uzbek deputy prime minister between 2002 and 2012.

TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan's dominant party has nominated Abdulla Aripov to be prime minister, picking a veteran official who was dismissed by late leader Islam Karimov in 2012 but is seen as a loyal backer of President-elect Shavkat Mirziyaev.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which backed Mirziyaev in the former Soviet republic's December 4 presidential election, said in a statement on its website that Aripov was "capable of taking responsibility for reforms."

Mirziyaev had been prime minister since 2003. He easily won the election in the tightly controlled country after three months as interim president following the death of Karimov, who had ruled with an iron fist since 1989.

Aripov, 55, was a deputy prime minister between 2002 and 2012. He also served as Uzbekistan's General Director of Communications and Information and chairman of the supervisory board for state-owned Uzbektelecom.

Karimov removed Aripov from the cabinet in August 2012 amid a corruption scandal involving allegations that licenses were illegally granted to mobile operator Uzdunrobita, an Uzbek subsidiary of Russian telecom giant Mobile TeleSystems (MTS).

Uzdunrobita was controlled at the time by Karimov's elder daughter, Gulnara Karimova, who was once tipped as a potential successor to her father but vanished from public life amid the telecoms scandal and is widely reported to be under house arrest. Her son told the BBC earlier in December that she was being held in a small annex of her property in Tashkent.

Uzbek President-elect Shavkat Mirziyaev
Uzbek President-elect Shavkat Mirziyaev

Mirziyaev reappointed Aripov as a deputy prime minister in mid-September, one of his first personnel moves after becoming interim president.

Aripov had been working as a teacher at the Tashkent-based School of Communications.

Observers say his background suggests he is likely to be loyal and compliant as prime minister under Mirziyaev.

The government has not announced a date for Mirziyaev's inauguration as president.

The president is head of state in the Central Asian nation and holds much more power than the prime minister, who is in charge of the cabinet and responsible for the economy.

Mirziyaev has taken steps to improve relations with neighbors and eased visa requirements for tourists from several countries, apparently seeking to decrease the isolation of a country in hopes of improving the troubled economy.

He has also established channels aimed at improving communication between citizens and the authorities, but critics say such steps fall short of real reforms that could improve people's lives and provide them with basic human rights.

With reporting by Reuters

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