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uzbekistan

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  UZBEKISTAN

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
447,400

Population
25,155,064

Principal
ethnic groups

Uzbeks 71.4%
Russians 8.3%
Tajiks 4.7%
Kazaks 4.1%

Capital
Tashkent

Currency
Uzbek Sum

President
Islam Karimov

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Background:
Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1925. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves. Current concerns include insurgency by Islamic militants based in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, a non-convertible currency, and the curtailment of human rights and democratisation.

Update No: 259 - (25/07/02)

Beneficiary of 9:11
The Uzbek leader, Islam Karimov, is having a very good war in the US campaign against terrorism. In the 1990s his tight dictorial regime was given pariah status by the US; and Steve Talbott, Clinton's envoy to the region, refused to come to town. The IMF refused credits.
Actually things began to change discreetly before 9:11 once the Clinton Administration realised that the US needed Uzbekistan if it was to react to al-Qaeda elements in Afghanistan, namely bin Laden and his henchmen. But 9:11 has accelerated cooperation beyond all expectations.

The US the new ally
Rumsfeld came to Tashkent to arrange cooperation across the board; forward bases and airfields and the like are being exchanged for military training and weaponry.
The US is providing US$160m in assistance for the economy with no strings attached, plus US$25m for procurement of military equipment. The Uzbeks in effect are de facto associate members of NATO now, a key ally at one end of the Turkic chain of states, along with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, while Turkey is at the other.

The threat remains
The routing of al-Qaeda and Taleban, which is not yet complete, is by no means the end of the matter for Uzbekistan. It has a formidable opponent in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is still operating and may even have been strengthened of late. The US in the course of the Afghan fighting, killed its leader Jomu Namangani, evidently in March, and many of his followers during the campaign. But he headed the comparatively less dangerous wing of the organisation, specialising in drug running and other contraband trade. The more militant political wing under Tohir Yuldashev remains operational. It too, aims at the overthrow of the Karimov regime.
IMU may still have 3-7,000 effectives, even while 5-7,000 languish behind bars in Uzbekistan. It is by no means a defunct affair and gains new recruits all the time right across Central Asia.
Still IMU is not large enough to threaten to topple the regime by itself. The most it can aspire to is to carry out sabotage and acts of terrorism. It very nearly succeeded in assassinating Karimov on one occasion, killing his chauffeur.
But there is another group altogether that could prove even more formidable in the long run, the Hizbut-ut-Takrir, which is committed to non-violence and pacific methods. It is making inroads among the young and cannot fail to strike an echo among many Uzbeks, who would admire its moderate Muslim approach.
Actually, IMU and Hizbut-ut-Takrit complement each other, IMU posing threats which make the regime clamp down even more, so breeding more recruits for Hizbut- ut-Takrir, some frustrated veterans of which switch over to the more violent tactics of IMU. The opposition looks set to grow.
But then this suits the regime, justifying its methods to the West and the US in particular; the dialectic of dissent and repression has a lot of mileage left in it in Uzbekistan.

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AUTOMOBILES

BMW opens doors in Almaty

The new BMW car salon recently opened its doors in Almaty amidst great fanfare and instead of the inaugural ribbon cutting ceremony, the rope connected with screws was untwisted to herald the official opening of automobile plaza. A wide range of vehicles were presented from Rodster Z-3 and up to X-5 model while wide screen TV showed the history of BMW and its present developments. 
Visitors were shown many motorcycles, amongst which was the scooter C-200. But the most luxurious car was the 7 series BMW model. BMW officials made a brief presentation to the director of Bavaria auto-salon Erik Lim of a miniature Rodster Z-8 model. The German carmaker sold 900,000 cars, 95,000 motorcycles and 25,000 Mini Rovers last year and planned to reach the target of a million vehicles and the BMW head office is looking at Bavaria to reach the high goal.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS

Gerlach leads strong business group to Tashkent

President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, recently received visiting State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Axel Gerlach, in Tashkent. The state secretary was leading a group of 50 high-ranking businessmen of his country, uzreport.com reported recently.
The Uzbek leader thanked his visitors for Germany's cooperation and support urging stronger ties, especially in the fields of business and economy. It must be noted that Germany is currently one of the largest European Economic partners of Uzbekistan. The volume of trade between the two countries made up US$283.3m in the previous year. The European country is participating in more than fifty projects in the republic in the sphere of export financing worth a total of almost US$1bn. In addition, Uzbekistan has signed 78 documents of bilateral cooperation with Germany.
In an attempt to further enrich and activate bilateral cooperation, the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan proceeded to certain transport alleviation's by issuing a resolution "On simplifying visa procedures for German citizens," ensuring preferential visa processing for business purposes. According to local press reports, the German delegates were also scheduled to visit certain Uzbek-German joint ventures in the regions of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

German Siemens to set up assembly line in Uzbekistan

Germany's Siemens plans to launch a personal computer assembly line in Uzbekistan in the near future, an Uzbek government official said recently, reports New Europe. The German conglomerate already has a substantial presence in the republic and is implementing several projects in power, IT and infrastructure sectors. Regarding its workforce, Siemens employs more than 450,000 people in 190 countries.

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FOREIGN LOANS

EBRD to back Zarmitan investment project

Russian news agency, Interfax, recently reported that European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is considering a US$35m investment project in the Zarmitan Gold mine project. If viable for the EBRD, this investment could be signed by the end of 2003, the agency said referring to the Uzbek government source. 
The EBRD could become a joint venture partner to Australia's Multiplex Mining, and the Uzbek government by investing in the form of equity.

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