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U.S., Uzbekistan Dialogue

The United States has, "continuing problems" with Uzbekistan but wants to establish "a new basis for cooperation," says U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher. Mr. Boucher met in Tashkent with Uzbekistan President, Islam Karimov and Uzbek Foreign Minister, Vladim Norov.

The U.S. and Uzbekistan, says Mr. Boucher, share a common interest in combating terrorism, illegal drugs, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. "And we have an interest in the economic and political development of a healthy society here," he says.

Speaking to journalists in Tashkent, Mr. Boucher said, "the United States has been and continues to be profoundly concerned about the human rights situation" in Uzbekistan. The U.S. strongly criticized the Uzbek government following the May 2005 crackdown by security forces in Andijon. Independent human rights monitors say between five-hundred and one-thousand people, mostly unarmed demonstrators, were killed in protests against the detention of local men on charges of, "Islamic extremism."

Mr. Boucher said it is important to distinguish between violent extremists and those who peacefully practice the faith of Islam. "If people are violent, we need to call them what they are. If they are setting bombs to kill innocent people, we need to call them terrorists," said Mr. Boucher. "At the same time," he said, "there needs to be a place for Islamic believers in the political process."

Human rights groups are concerned about the safety of five men recently extradited by Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan for their alleged involvement in the violence in Andijon. "Their confessions will be forced through intimidation, false promises of shorter terms or amnesty, and torture," says Vasila Inoyatov, head of the Uzbek human rights group, Ezgulik.

Mr. Boucher says the U.S. wants the Uzbek government, "to find a way to move forward here in the area of human rights." Rebuilding trust and improving relations between the U.S. and Uzbekistan will take action by both countries, says Assistant Secretary of State Boucher, "for our part, we are willing to try."

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