Hillary pushes rights in ex-Soviet Central Asia

Last Updated: Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 23:14

Tashkent: US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton was on Saturday expected to press Uzbek President Islam
Karimov on human rights and regional cooperation as she
arrived in the strategically-located ex-Soviet state.

She arrived from neighbouring Tajikistan`s capital
Dushanbe where she sought to defend her plans to meet the
controversial Uzbek leader, saying US contacts with the
authoritarian regime can help improve the ex-Soviet country`s
rights record.

At the helm of the landlocked nation of 28.5 million
since 1989, Karimov wields unchecked power and tolerates no
dissent.

His bloody crackdown on a rare burst of unrest in the
city of Andijan in 2005 left 187 people dead, according to
official figures, or many hundreds, according to rights
groups.

US ties with Uzbekistan have for years been a delicate
balancing act as Washington seeks to encourage its government
to improve its rights record while trying to secure Tashkent`s
support in its war on terror, given its strategic border with
war-ravaged Afghanistan and its existing railway
infrastructure.

"If you have no contact you will have no influence, and
other countries will fill that vacuum who do not care about
human rights," Hillary said in Tajikistan, referring to her
plans to meet the Uzbek leader.

"It`s a balancing act, but we try on an ongoing basis to
get our message across and give heart to people inside
countries that there are those outside who care about what is
happening to them and are advocating for change on their
behalf."

"I cannot promise you that there will be some immediate
change... you know that change in many of these situations
takes time and effort," she said at a town-hall style meeting
with Tajik youth and civil society in Dushanbe.

She was speaking in response to a woman who asked why she
was meeting an authoritarian leader like Karimov.

Ahead of Hillary’s meeting with the Uzbek leader Human
Rights Watch called on the top US diplomat to press Uzbekistan
to release political prisoners, end torture in jails and
promote civil society.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 23:14

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