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uzbekistan  

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UZBEKISTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,949 9,713 11,300 91
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 420 450 550 173
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

Books on Uzbekistan

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
447,400 

Population 
26,410,416

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: 307 - (27/07/06)

Succession problem
President Islam Karimov has been around for decades. He was head of the Uzbek communist party in the 1980s and just remade himself as a nationalist in typical post-Soviet style. The Karimovs of this world have no shame and brazenly exemplify Dr Johnson's dictum that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." That he is an awful tyrant is well-known world-wide, responsible for a ghastly massacre last year in Andijan in the Ferghana Valley.
In the middle of March one of the web sites of the opposition reported on curious attempts to make Karimov lifetime president, curious because they seem so far to have failed. Reports from other sources imply that his dreaded elder daughter, Gulnara Karimova, put into motion a PR campaign encompassing Russia as well as Uzbekistan, with the idea of her succeeding her father, who, according to certain earlier reports, is unwell and has a fatal disease.
Personnel shuffles in the corridors of power are under way in the republic itself, indeed have been under way for some months. They are believed to be in connection with the presidential election in Uzbekistan scheduled for 2007. Once in the periphery of public attention, the subject of state power succession is moving back into the spotlight again.

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It is worth examining in this context the woman who might well succeed Karimov -Karimova!

"The she-beast of Tashkent"
In Central Asia the nepotistic policies of the old khanates have resurfaced after independence - but with a difference.
After seventy years of being preached equality of the sexes (the actual practice was very different by communism), the groomed successors can be daughters as often as sons. In Kazakhstan it is Nazarbayeva, daughter of Nursultan Nazarbayev. Karimova, daughter of President Islam Karimov, has been making the running in Uzbekistan. 
She is not exactly a chip off the old block - but rather a micro-chip off the old block. She is in one way a far smaller person than her ghastly parent. But in another she is far more attuned to the modern world of microchips and all that. 
She serves at present as an Advisor to the Ambassador of Uzbekistan in Russia and is believed to have built an extensive business empire that includes the largest wireless telephone operator in Uzbekistan, night clubs, and a large cement factory. She has a warrant for her arrest in New Jersey after fleeing the United States with her children after a messy divorce and custody battle resulted in her ex-husband being awarded custody.
Karimova is generally unpopular within Uzbekistan, and is believed to have amassed her large business empire through corrupt means. One of the more serious charges is that she employs her nighclubs within Tashkent as centres of prostitution and assists in the trafficking of Uzbek women to Dubai for the same purpose. It is true that prostitutes are visible in her nightclubs and that in Tashkent all nightclubs but hers are heavily restricted (even in their hours of operation) and that she uses her influence to limit opportunities for rivals. 
For example, promised liberalization of the telecommunications sectors has been delayed while she owned part of it. In 2005 she sold her shares in Uzdunrobita to a Russian company for 212 million dollars, a figure which places a much higher than realistic value on the company. At the same time, she negotiated on behalf of Uzbekistan to award most of Uzbekistan's natural gas exports to the Russian state-controlled company Gazprom. Karimova also received a large cash payment upon the completion of that particular deal (rumored to be 88 million USD), with the promise of further payments as gas exports continue.
Her most famous dealings do not concern a company of her own, rather that of her ex-husband. Coca Cola, for whom her ex-husband was a representative in Uzbekistan, Coca Cola suffered following their divorce, and the Uzbek operations of that company were effectively halted and Uzbekistan's strict financial regulations were strenuously enforced to ensure that the organization could not get export or import licenses and that most of their assets were prevented from leaving the country.
Her diplomatic position was awarded after she was arrested in the UAE. Like others who leave the US with their children in violation of custody decisions, she was on a list of wanted persons distributed by the United States, with which the UAE has a cooperation agreement. After a call from her father's office, she was released, and became a diplomat with diplomatic immunity shortly thereafter.
Although many charges are probably true, she is also credited by an angry Uzbek population with many things over which she is not guilty and over which she has limited control, such as of Uzbekistan's economic problems and personally torturing those who oppose her.
Lately Gulnara Karimova started to appear more in the censored Uzbek press which presents her as a lucky businesswoman, caring mother and the person involved in charity. An intriguing fact is that according to Uzbek press Gulnara combines a lot of professions at her only early 30s: she is a diplomat, a scientist, a poet, a jewellery master, an entrepreneur and recently she was mentioned also as a singer (known as Gugush) whose songs are played on local radio stations. It is thought to be the beginning of campaign in her favour in order to introduce her to a large public as a worthy candidate for the successor to her father.

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Refugees return from US 
Twelve Uzbeks with political asylum in the United States returned to Uzbekistan in mid-July. Fourteen months earlier in May 2005 they fled their hometown of Andijan when Uzbek government troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing hundreds. The 12 Uzbeks were among hundreds of people who fled in fear and panic from Andijan on May 13, 2005, after Uzbek government troops opened fire on protesters in the town's central square. 
The return has surprised many as it comes amid a battle by the United Nations and international human rights groups over the fate of several Uzbek refugees still detained in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Twelve Uzbeks -- including at least three men -- have returned and have been reunited with their families, a neighbour of some of the returnees told RFE/RL from Andijan. 

A saga ends 
They first sought refuge in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and, with the assistance of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), 439 of them were flown to Romania and subsequently given political asylum in the United States and various European countries. 
Uzbek authorities wanted them returned, saying that some of them had committed terrorist acts in Uzbekistan. Human rights groups said the refugees were likely to face prosecution and possibly torture if they returned home. 
Andre Mahecic of the UNHCR says the 12 Uzbeks did not inform the UN about their decision to return home. 
"We have seen media reports -- in fact, there is no mechanism that would force these people to contact UNHCR or anybody," he said. "It is an inalienable right of people to return. However if they were in touch with us, we would certainly provide them advice and counsel them as much as possible on the situation and possible pitfalls along the way." 

'Guaranteed' Safety 
The Uzbek Embassy in Washington assisted the Uzbeks in returning home. Russia's Regnum news agency quoted an unnamed source at the Uzbek Foreign Ministry as saying on July 17 that Uzbek authorities considered the refugees' request to return home and concluded that those people were not involved in "terrorist attacks in Andijan." The statement said: "It was proved that they were deceived and taken outside the country." 
One of the refugees resettled in the United States told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the Uzbek national security service gave the 12 Uzbeks a guarantee that they would be safe. 
Allison Gill, a former head of Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Tashkent office, is sceptical about that guarantee. She recalls the cases of several Uzbeks accused of masterminding the 1999 bombings in Tashkent. They returned home after Uzbek authorities "guaranteed" their safety but were subsequently tried and sentenced to prison terms. 
"I am a little sceptical about promises by the Uzbek government to pardon people who fled Uzbekistan after the Andijan events," Gill said. "I fear this may be a trap.... I understand that leaving a home country is a horrible experience. Living in a foreign country is very hard. Of course they want to go home. I can understand that. But I have difficulties to comprehend how one can trust this government." 
However, some of the other refugees seem intent on following these 12 refugees. 
On June 27, a group of Uzbek refugees in Germany wrote an open letter to Uzbek President Islam Karimov saying they want to return home. A man who introduced himself as Nasrullo is one of them. 
"God willing, I have the same intention," he said. "If I will be told: 'Come without fear, nothing [bad] will happen to you,' I will believe it and return. I will get my old job, God willing. I want to be in my own country, among my own people. I believe I should be there [living with] my people." 
The return to Uzbekistan by the refugees has surprised many of their compatriots. This man from Andijan had this to say: "I can't understand them. There was a massacre in Andijan. The suffering and hardship of the Uzbek people, the prosecution of opposition members and human rights activists [continues]. People had to flee the country after the Andijan massacre. And now they ask for a pardon and return home? It's incomprehensible." 
Gill and Mahecic say the refugees' return to Uzbekistan does not affect the international community's assessment of the Andijan tragedy. Western countries severely condemned the Uzbek government's method of quelling the protest in Andijan. 
Uzbek authorities have said 187 people, mostly troops and "foreign-paid terrorists," died in the uprising. Eyewitness accounts and independent estimates say the death toll may be as high as 800, and that it included many women and children. 

Refugees Remain In Neighbouring Countries 
Meanwhile, the UNHCR is assisting dozens of Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan who fled religious and political persecution in Uzbekistan. 
Four Andijan refugees remain in detention in Kyrgyzstan despite being granted UN refugee status. Uzbek authorities continue to demand their extradition. 
Five others -- four from Andijan and one from the nearby city of Kokand (Qoqon) -- were detained today in southern Kyrgyzstan, ferghana.ru reported quoting Osh city police official Zamir Sidykov. 
Several others who fled to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan face pressure from the Uzbek side to return home. Some have reportedly been abducted by the Uzbek security service and forcefully brought home. 
Isroil Kholdarov, a human rights and political activist from Andijan who has been seeking asylum in Kyrgyzstan, has been missing since last week. 
In Kazakhstan, Gabdurafih Temirboev, an Uzbek with UN refugee status, has been in detention since June 24. 
On July 17, the HRW urged the European Union to stress the need for Uzbek refugees to be protected in neighbouring countries. The organization said Uzbek refugees face "a very real risk of persecution and torture in Uzbekistan." 

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ENERGY

Gissarneftegaz starts US$400m oil project 


The Uzbek-Swiss joint venture, Gissarneftegaz, has started implementing a US$400m project to explore and develop oil and gas fields in Uzbekistan, Ulmaskamal Abdazimov, first deputy director general of Gissarneftegaz, told reporters, Interfax News Agency reported.
"We started drilling recently at the North Nishan field in Bukharo-Khiva region and next in line is the first well at the North Guzar field," Interfax quoted him as saying. Gas production will start in September at the North Guzar field and at the end of this year at the North Nishan field, Abdazimov said. 
The North Guzar field is expected to produce 430 million cubic metres of gas and 30,000 tonnes of gas condensate once it reaches projected capacity and the North Nishan field will produce up to two bcm of gas a year. "We are planning to start building a gas pipeline soon to transport gas from fields in the Bukharo-Khiva district to Shchurtanneftegaz, a gas refinery that is part of Uzbekneftegaz," Abdazimov said. Search and exploratory work will start in July at the Tagam-Shimolii-Tandircha section of Gissar region, he said. Gissarneftegaz expects about US$100 million in investment. Zeromax has been operating in Uzbekistan since 1999. Since 2000 the company has specialised mainly in building oil and gas infrastructure. The Swiss company is the co-founder of a number of joint ventures and subsidiaries working in the oil and gas sector in the republic.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Tashkent, Riga sign economic cooperation agreement 

Uzbekistan and Latvia signed an international agreement on economic and industrial cooperation in Riga on June 29th. The agreement was signed after a meeting between State Secretary of Latvian Economy Minister, Kaspars Gerhards, and Uzbek First Deputy Foreign Minister, Isan Mustaev, New Europe reported. 
The sides evaluated the agreement as a positive step for further development of bilateral economic dialogue. Under the agreement, the intergovernmental commission will be created, which will enforce agreement into practice, Latvian Embassy in Tashkent said. According to the Latvian Economy Ministry, Uzbekistan is 15th largest foreign trade partner of Latvia. Latvian exports to Uzbekistan increased by 1.5 per cent and imports by 98 per cent in 2005 compared to previous year.

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FOREIGN LOANS

China bank to provide 20m credit line 

The State Development Bank of China is providing a long-term 20 million Euro credit line to the Uzbek National Bank of Foreign and Economic Activity to finance projects in small business and private entrepreneurship, the Uzbek bank said in a press release. A loan agreement was signed recently in Shanghai, New Europe reported.
The parties reached agreement on the credit line at the end of 2005 when a Chinese delegation visited Tashkent. The resources are being provided to the Uzbek bank without a guarantee from the Uzbek government for nine years with a two-year grace period on an interest rate of Libor + 1.5 per cent. The credit line will be used to finance the delivery of equipment, technology and services of which at least 50 per cent will be Chinese-made. The minimum amount of a sub-loan is 100,000 Euro. Loans for individual projects should not be more than 85 per cent of the total value of the import contract, the release said. This is the first loan raised by the Uzbekistan bank.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Karimov praises relations with China 

Uzbek President, Islam Karimov, said Uzbekistan and China have the same principles for maintaining regional stability and security and are determined to counteract external attempts to force Western standards of ways of democratisation and public development on the two countries. "Uzbekistan sees China as a reliable, great neighbour and partner, which has been giving us support since the very first days of independence of our country and continues to do so," Karimov said, Interfax News Agency reported.
"As countries that have directly experienced the reality of the threats of forces of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, Uzbekistan and China have the same principles for maintaining regional stability and security," he said. "We also share the determination to counter external attempts to force Western standards of ways of democratisation and public development on our countries," the president said. He also praised Uzbek-Chinese trade, which he said swelled nearly fivefold between 2000 and 2005. "At the same time, we are firmly convinced that both countries possess large unused resources and a powerful potential for taking their trade and economic, financial and investment cooperation to a higher stage," Karimov said. 

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