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UZBEKISTAN

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In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,713 11,300 13,800 86
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 450 550 620 164
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
447,400 

Population 
25,981,647

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Uzbeks 71.4%
Russians 8.3%
Tajiks 4.7%
Kazaks 4.1%

Capital 
Tashkent 

Currency 
Uzbek Sum

President 
Islam Karimov

  

Update No: 287- (29/11/04)

Uzbeks Protest at British Envoy's Sacking 
The Uzbek capital, Tashkent, has been affected by demonstrations against the recall of Craig Murray, the UK Ambassador. About a dozen brave people protested in the Uzbek capital on October 29th at the sacking of the British ambassador - an outspoken critic of the human rights situation in the Central Asian nation. One can be sure that for every protester intrepid enough to take part there were dozens more that would have been pleased to do so but for the risk of incriminating their families, friends and work colleagues, only too potent a reality in ultra-repressive Uzbekistan.
The protesters gathered outside the British Embassy in Tashkent, holding signs that read: "Uzbek people love our friend Murray," "Don't give up Mr Craig Murray, fight for democracy and freedom in Uzbekistan. We are here to defend Craig Murray who has been betrayed by the British government," said one of the demonstrators.
That there were any demonstrators at all is remarkable, since they will now be marked men.
Public protests are rare in the tightly controlled former Soviet state, which remains a police state as repressive as it ever was in the time of the USSR.
The Foreign Office had sacked Mr Murray two weeks previously, saying he had lost the confidence of senior officials and colleagues.

Saddam-emulation regime
Mr Murray has been has been an outstanding critic of the human rights abuses of the Karimov regime, detailing the appalling practices of its torture chambers. He had harshly criticised widespread human rights abuses, including putting more than 6,000 political prisoners in squalid jails where dozens of people have reportedly died from torture. He recently accused British and US intelligence services of using information collected from people tortured by Uzbekistan's security services.
People are being boiled alive and subject to other unspeakable horrors. Karimov's torturers have stolen one leaf from the book of Saddam Hussein's. They routinely haul in the victim's family and work colleagues to force them to behold him being tortured. In the case of a fake reprieve the relatives are then often required. at gun-point to carry out the execution themselves.
The aim of this particular phenomenon is to intimidate and terrorise the entire population. As local observers agree, it is only serving to create new recruits for the opposition, who are, indeed, increasingly resorting to terrorist tactics. 
Mr Murray's removal is undoubtedly a blow for the moderate opposition, It is likely to convince the opponents of the regime that the West has abandoned it and make them more prone to take the terrorist route. That suits the Karimov regime just fine, justifying its repressive rule and confirming it as a staunch ally of the US in 'the war against terror.'

British press reacts
The UK is being widely condemned for its behaviour, acting at the behest of the US at the sacrifice of its liberal principles. The US has been benefiting from the use of a crucial base near the Afghan border, with 1,000 troops there, and has extended aid and credits of up to $295m per year. The Foreign Office is insistent that the recall of Murray has nothing to do with his stance on human rights and is due to quite other reasons, including certain diplomatic misdemeanours he perpetrated last year, as well as his poor medical condition.
Nobody believes them, including, one may be sure, the Uzbek authorities, who must be extremely gratified at the turn events have taken. The signal has gone out loud and clear. They can torture and execute oppositionists to their heart's content without there being any thing more than private, informal reproof from the West. They can live with that easily and pocket the money in the process. 
The UK media, to their credit, have not let the Foreign Office off lightly. Here are some relevant comments. 
'How can Britain stoop so low?' 

Michael Portillo Sunday Times, October 17 
"'We are selling our souls for dross.' So wrote Craig Murray, ambassador to Uzbekistan, referring to the fact that Britain and the United States are accepting intelligence extracted from suspects under torture. Mr Murray is offended on moral grounds that the western democracies are in the market for information beaten out of prisoners. He also believes that we are being bamboozled, because terrified captives will say whatever their interrogators demand and then the nasty regime in Tashkent spices it up to make us believe that it is on the front line against al-Qaeda. 
"The reaction of the Foreign Office has been to defend the UK's practice, saying that it would be irresponsible to disregard leads obtained under duress, and then to dismiss Mr Murray as ambassador. How has Britain come to stoop so low? One of the things that defined us as a nation was our abhorrence of brutality. How can it be then we also encourage foreign governments to mistreat prisoners?" 

Financial Times Editorial, October 16 
"The Tashkent tyranny of President Islam Karimov is one of the worst in the world, with more than 5,000 political prisoners and capable of boiling men to death. Its value as a forward US base for Afghanistan operations has given it the confidence to sell a long-running campaign against internal dissidents as part of the campaign against al-Qaeda. That is a confidence trick the west appears willing to fall for. 
"The moral and legal case against torture should not need further argument. Unhappily, it needs to be continually restated in opposition not only to what goes on in such places as Uzbekistan, but in US-run facilities such as Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan. As for the Foreign Office, if it sends a principled person to advance an unprincipled policy it is not only incompetent but riding for a fall - and deservedly so." 

Independent Editorial, October 16 
"Over two years in Uzbekistan, Mr Murray had been outspoken about the abuse of human rights in that former Soviet republic. He might have got away with this hardly controversial view - indeed, he says he had cleared all his public speeches with the Foreign Office - had he not gone on to query the extent to which the US and Britain were turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in states such as Uzbekistan for the sake of the 'war on terror'. Implicating a third country, let alone a close ally, is a bigger offence than merely criticising your own. 
"Earlier this year, the Foreign Office produced a new mission statement, which placed combating global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction at the top of its priorities, followed by protection from illegal immigration, drug trafficking and international crime. Human rights occupied the sixth of eight places. Craig Murray was working to the old agenda. Good for him." 

Times Editorial, October 16 
"As laudable as Mr Murray's motives were, his methods were self-indulgent. As ambassador he had unique access to [the Uzbek] regime via channels closed even to the most assiduous journalists, and his duty was to use them to advance Britain's interests, especially in security and trade, as well as those of Uzbekistan's oppressed dissidents and moderate Muslims. 
"He described himself this week as a 'victim of conscience'. If so, the right time to salve his conscience, and the most effective time from the point of view of those he seeks to help, would have been at a post-resignation press conference. Mr Murray is guilty of naivety." 

Daily Express Editorial, October 16 
"Craig Murray has accused MI6 of using information obtained by the Uzbek government through torture: the Foreign Office has responded by claiming Mr Murray arranged visas in exchange for sex with women. Mr Murray fiercely denies the claims. 
"This is no way for Britain to be conducting her foreign affairs in public: both parties should pipe down. But what is most depressing is this: Mr Murray emerges as far more credible than the Foreign Office. What a sad decline in our country if we can even imagine that one of the great departments of state is capable of telling a lie." 

Daily Telegraph Editorial, October 16 
"Compromises must be made during wars, of course. In the face of the Soviet menace, we propped up a number of brutal tyrants, telling ourselves, 'He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he's our son-of-a-bitch.' In this case, though, it is far from clear that such an attitude serves western interests. The fact is that there is virtually no religious fundamentalism in Uzbekistan. The traveller to central Asia sees beards or headscarves rarely, and hears few calls to prayer. 
"But President Karimov's claim that he is besieged by Muslim fanatics may eventually prove self- fulfilling. If they are offered no other outlet for their hatred of the regime, Uzbeks may indeed turn to fundamentalism. The quickest way to finish off the extremists in central Asia would be to encourage the development of property rights and political pluralism. What a pity that saying so should be a sacking offence." 

Uzbekistan 'might look to China and Russia' after US cut in aid
The UK government decision is widely seen as being due to the need to mollify the Americans. In fact, however, the US of late has been becoming tougher in its stand on human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, which can probably be put down to the Congress and the State Department, as distinct from the Pentagon.
The US State Department's decision to cut aid to Uzbekistan, its strategic central Asian ally in the "war on terror," might push the Central Asian republic to seek closer ties with Russia and China.
The State Department decided not to certify Uzbekistan for military and economic aid of up to US$18m (€14.5m) this year because of "lack of progress on democratic reform and restrictions put on US assistance partners on the ground." US law requires an annual human rights certification from the secretary of state before appropriate foreign aid money can be dispersed.
After the September 11th attacks, in the US, Uzbekistan provided Washington with an air base to support the anti-terrorist campaign in neighbouring Afghanistan. The base currently hosts more than 1,000 US troops.
The US said it would use its new, close partnership with Uzbekistan to promote democratic development in the nation, whose government is seen as one of the most repressive in the region.
The closer ties with Washington have drawn increased international attention to widespread human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. Apparently wary of such criticism, Uzbekistan has recently sought security guarantees within the China- and Russia-dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
The organisation, which also includes Kakakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, is seen as an attempt by China and Russia to counter growing US influence in central Asia.
Ilkhom Zakirov, Uzbek foreign ministry spokesman, said that US human rights standards "may be too high for Uzbekistan, which has just started to move toward democracy." He said, however, that Sadyk Safayev, foreign minister, and Elizabeth Jones, US assistant secretary of state, has agreed in Tashkent that despite the State Department decision, the two countries saw no obstacles to continuing and developing cooperation.
Alisher Taksanov, an Uzbek political analyst, predicted the latest US move would push Uzbekistan further towards Russia and China. "The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a club of human rights abusers, where Uzbekistan is very welcome," he said. Earlier this year, Uzbek authorities accused US aid groups of interfering in the country's internal affairs by helping banned opposition organisations, and they tightened restrictions on foreign NGO's. Meanwhile, rights activists have accused the Uzbek government of a fresh crackdown on dissent since March and April attacks and suicide bombings in Tashkent and the central Bukhara region that killed 47. The attacks were blamed on Islamist militants.
Arkady Dubnov, a regional expert with the Moscow based newspaper, Vremya Novostei, said the recent warming in Uzbekistan's relations with Russia could have been triggered by President Islam Karimov's irritation over western criticism. "Russia is trying to take advantage of its former satellites' huge frustration over western pressure on lack of democracy and human rights," he said.

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BANKING

Uzbekistan's largest bank boosts Q1-Q3 assets


Assets at Uzbekistan's National Bank for Foreign Economic Activities, the country's biggest bank, increased 13.4 per cent to 3.4 trillion sum over January-September, the bank's press service said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Its credit portfolio expanded 22.27 per cent to 2.836 trillion sum during this period, with mid- and long-term loans accounting for 84 per cent (2.382 trillion sum). Bank capital increased 1.4 per cent to stand at 271.2 billion sum at the start of October. The bank comprises 99 offices and branches throughout the republic and the subsidiary Asia-Invest Bank in Moscow.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS

Russia, Uzbekistan can make serious decisions on economy 

Russia and Uzbekistan may make serious decisions in the area of economy before the end of this year, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said while meeting with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, Interfax News Agency reported. 
"We have made considerable progress in our bilateral relations. I am hoping we will make serious decisions in the area of economy, in particular, energy, in the nearest future," Putin said. 
"Experts are already working on documents in this area," he said. "Maybe we can see you in Moscow before the end of the year," Putin told Karimov. 
Karimov said the role of Russia in Central Asia will always be high. Several years ago, after the collapse of the USSR, "Russia did not completely understand its historical role here and used the wrong leverage to show its significance," Karimov said. 
Today, Russia is demonstrating "an absolutely new and well-thought out approach," emphasizing economic cooperation with the countries of the region, primarily in the area of energy, Karimov said. "The energy industry is one of the key objectives. It creates a bridge, solid communication between the regions of Central Asia, Kazakstan, and Russia," he said. 
Karimov said Russia and Uzbekistan should stop using declarative approaches and begin to work on specific balanced directions, when the economic presence of Russia is felt in the regions and Russian investment went there, when the presence of major firms and companies is felt, especially in the energy industry," he said. 

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