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Uzbek Base And Human Rights

The government of Uzbekistan has requested that the United States leave the Karshi-Khanabad, or K-2, air base within one-hundred-eighty days. The U.S. military has used the Uzbek base as one route of access to Afghanistan in the war on terror. Under a bilateral agreement between the United States and Uzbekistan, either party has the right to terminate U.S. use of the base at any time by providing one-hundred-eighty days notice.

The announcement by Uzbekistan's government came amid international criticism over the violence that took place in May in the city of Andijan. Human rights groups and eyewitnesses charge that Uzbek security forces killed hundreds of unarmed protesters there. There has been no accountability for this massacre.

The United States continues to have important security interests in Uzbekistan, but will also continue to speak out about human rights. "On the one hand, we clearly have been supportive of efforts to strengthen our relationship on the military side," said U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. "Of course, access to the base was useful to us, but on the other hand, the United States felt it was very important we speak out clearly on behalf of those who were victims of human right abuses, particularly concerning the Andijan episode."

U.S. State Department Acting Spokesman Tom Casey said that in the U.S. relationship with Uzbekistan, the issues of security on the one hand and human rights on the other, are not mutually exclusive:

"Democracy and human rights, economic reform, military cooperation are all part of our relationship. I think we’ve said previously that we do not view any of these elements as inimical to one another, but we’re going to continue to have a dialogue with the Government of Uzbekistan. We certainly expect that that dialogue will continue over time, regardless of the status of the base."

The United States, said Under Secretary of State Burns, will "continue to assert the principal that human rights and democratic reforms are important and that what happened in Andijan must be investigated."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.