Dushanbe: US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton on Friday arrived on her first official visit to the
ex-Soviet nation of Tajikistan for talks on the danger of
drugs and Islamists facing the region.
Her visit and expected trip on Saturday to Uzbekistan
extend a tour that has taken already in Kabul and Islamabad --
the focal points of Washington's strategy to wind down its
10-year war in Afghanistan ahead of elections next year.
Hillary was expected to meet Tajik President Emomali
Rakhmon in Dushanbe and Uzbek President Islam Karimov in
Tashkent over the weekend.
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, both former Soviet republics,
agreed in February 2009 to permit the overland transit of
non-military supplies intended for NATO operations in
A government official in Uzbekistan said US and Uzbek
officials would discuss regional cooperation.
"Besides expanding Uzbek-US cooperation, other regional
issues of mutual interest as well as Uzbekistan's involvement
in rebuilding Afghanistan's economy will top the agenda."
Human rights groups accuse the isolated nation which also
shares a strategic border with Afghanistan of cracking down on
political dissent at home.
But for the United States and the European Union,
Uzbekistan is a tempting ally in a region vital to NATO
efforts against the Taliban.
Uzbekistan hosted a US airbase near the Afghan border
after the September 11 terror attacks in the United States,
but closed it down in 2005 after the US government criticised
Uzbekistan's army crackdown on a popular uprising in Andijan
in the east of the country.
Hillary is also expected to visit a new power train plant
in the Uzbek capital part-owned by General Motors. Its joint
venture with state-owned UzAvtosanoat also produces Chevrolet
cars for the domestic market and for export to Russia.
Moscow, which regards both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
among its close allies, is expected to keep a watchful eye
over Clinton's trip.
During a globe-trotting visit that began earlier this
week, Clinton also visited the tiny Gulf sultanate of Oman, as
well as Libya and the Mediterranean island state of Malta.
First Published: Saturday, October 22, 2011, 00:30