Saturday, May 21, 2005

Violence worstens in Uzbekistan

The killing of hundreds of protesters in Uzbekistan by government troops has focused the world's attention on the strategic Central Asian nation.

The violence began on Friday after a pro-democracy protest and a jailbreak involving men accused of "Islamic extremism" in the eastern city of Andijan.

Since then, President Islam Karimov's government and its human rights record have come under the spotlight, and the possibility that he will be the second Central Asian leader to be toppled this year has been raised.

The US, which has a military base in the country, and Russia argue that Karimov is a stabilising force, a bastion against the spread of Islamic extremism, and a valuable ally in the war on terror.

But Craig Murray, who was sacked in October 2004 as UK ambassador to Uzbekistan after he spoke out against rights abuses, says the Uzbek government is beyond the pale and the West should wash its hands of it.


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