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Uzbek Opposition Urges U.S. to Stop Supporting President Karimov

MosNews | May 17, 2005

Uzbekistan’s nascent opposition movement, galvanized by the bloody suppression of a revolt in the East, urged the United States on Tuesday to help it oust hardline President Islam Karimov, Reuters reports.

Dozens of human rights and opposition activists gathered outside the U.S. embassy in the capital Tashkent despite police attempts to prevent the rally which comes after troops opened fire on protesters in the town of Andizhan on Friday.

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“We want the United States to see Uzbekistan not only as a giant military base in their war on terror, but also as a country where people want freedom and human rights,” Akhtam Shaimardanov, member of a small opposition party, was quoted by Reuters is saying.

“War is just about to break out in Uzbekistan. We want them (United States) to realise this and help us,” he said, holding a crudely written banner reading “We demand the USA to stop supporting Karimov’s regime”.

Others in a leafy alley outside the heavily guarded U.S. embassy waved hand-written banners in silence, nervously glancing at police officers in civilian clothes taking notes. Protesters said at least three activists were arrested earlier in the day when police broke into their flats at dawn, Reuters added.

The United States sees Uzbekistan as a key ally after the Muslim country let Washington use an air base in its war in neighboring Afghanistan.

But Washington hardened its line on Uzbekistan after the Andizhan massacre saying it was “deeply disturbed” by reports that soldiers fired on protesters.

Human rights groups put the death toll in Andizhan at 500, some of the opposition’s leaders at 745.

Uzbekistan’s prosecutor general said on Tuesday the total death toll from the suppression was 169 people.

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