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Russia, US blocked NATO call for probe into Uzbek massacre: report

Channel News Asia | June 14, 2005

WASHINGTON : Russia and the United States blocked NATO last week from calling for an international probe into last month's clashes in Uzbekistan, in which hundreds of people were believed killed, The Washington Post said.

US officials at a meeting Thursday of defense ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Russia and Ukraine discussed violence-torn Darfur.

A closing statement said security issues in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, had also been discussed without further details.

Britain and other European had pressed for NATO to include in the final statement a demand for an international investigation of the May 13 massacre in the Uzbek city of Andijan, but they were stopped by Russia and the United States, US and diplomatic officials told the daily.

Human rights groups say hundreds of people, many of them unarmed demonstrators, were killed as troops opened fire in Andijan after rebels seized government buildings. Uzbekistan's authorities have put the official death toll, including law enforcement officers, at 173.

According to The Washington Post's sources, the US delegation at the NATO meeting, which included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and State Department officials disagreed over the proposed call to investigative action.

Defense officials prevailed over the State Department view that a probe was in order by arguing that an investigation could compromise US access to a military base in Uzbekistan they said was crucial in the fight against international terrorism, the daily said.

Russia argued against the probe by saying that the Andijan incident had been "inspired" by Afghanistan, the daily said.

European lawmakers also met Thursday at Strasbourg and called for the European Union to cut direct aid to Uzbekistan until it launched an independent inquiry into last month's clashes.

In their resolution, the European deputies urged the United States to suspend talks on an agreement that would allow it to maintain a military base in Uzbekistan in exchange for financial benefits, and look elsewhere in the region.

- AFP /ct


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