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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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

Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)

The Wolfowitz debacle
There is no doubt that there is one person who must be enjoying considerable schadenfreude right now over the discomfiture of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank - that is President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. The scandal is just what the doctor ordered for Karimov to stuff his critics.

Pity Paul Wolfowitz, if you prefer: Every time he tries regime change, he triggers an insurrection.

The latest revolt was launched by World Bank staffers and Western aid leaders in response to the revelation that Wolfowitz -- who had made a crusade against corruption the hallmark of his bumpy tenure as president of the World Bank -- may have awarded his companion a US$60,000 pay increase. A staff that had always hated working for the intellectual architect of the Iraq war was now quite literally shouting for his resignation, and Wolfowitz was left wandering the corridors of the bank looking for a Green Zone in which to hide.

In his fight against corruption, Wolfowitz drew a line in the sand in Uzbekistan, cutting off loans to its tyrant. Wolfowitz argued that Karimov had stolen from his already impoverished public and massacred civilian demonstrators. Wolfowitz's detractors grumbled that the real reason for the cut-off was Karimov's July 2005 decision to deny the Bush administration the right to use a military base there. But so what? Perhaps the right thing was done for the wrong reasons. It's still hard to feel any sympathy for Karimov, who is as far from democracy as Borat is from journalism.

But beyond Uzbekistan and a few other laudable aid cut offs, the Wolfowitz programme was compromised by selective prosecution. By the bank's own measures, 54 other countries are about as corrupt as Uzbekistan, or worse. Should the bank cut off all 54? (Actually, why not?) Wolfowitz was not willing to go that far, alas, which left everyone confused about what his criteria really were. Pakistan -- a linchpin of the U.S. campaign against al-Qaeda but not much more of a paragon of clean hands and democracy than Uzbekistan -- continued to receive oodles of World Bank money. 

Ruslan boosts national pride 
If schadenfreude is excited in Tashkent by Wolfowitz's plight, a very different emotion came to the fore in mid-April, pride and delight at an unusual sporting prowess by an Uzbek champion boxer. Sport was very important to the Soviet regime; it is also to the Karimov one.

Ruslan Chagaev earned much more than the right to call himself the new WBA heavyweight champion following his superb tactical victory over 7ft 1ins Nikolai Valuev in Stuttgart on April 21st. The 28-year-old Chagaev has been bestowed with the prestigious Buyuk Hizmatlari Uchun order for great services to his nation after becoming only the second Uzbek in history to claim a world professional boxing title. 

"A lot of people said Valuev would be too tall and strong for me, but I knew that while I was smaller I was much more insistent," said Chagaev after gaining a richly deserved majority decision victory. 

For Chagaev, whose athletic and precise counter-punching style befuddled his cumbersome opponent, victory was the culmination of a quest which has also yielded two world amateur titles - one of which was later stripped. 

For Uzbekistan, and in particular their totalitarian and publicity-hungry president Islam Karimov, it was glorious vindication of the former Soviet tactic of aggressively seeking to boost national pride through sporting achievement. 

Karimov, whose unpredictable decrees include the banning of billiards to discourage talking about politics in public places, hailed Chagaev for his "great contribution to improve the authority and prestige of Uzbekistan in the international arena and bringing up youth in the spirit and love and devotion to the motherland". 

EU: Drive For Central Asia Strategy Could Shape Uzbekistan Policy
EU foreign ministers held their first debate on the bloc's evolving Central Asian strategy in Luxembourg in late April. That blueprint is being pushed by the current holder of the rotating EU Presidency, Germany, and could be adopted at an EU summit in June.

But critics in Brussels fear the drive to bring coherence to the EU's approach to energy-rich and strategically important Central Asia could come at a high cost. Some officials have told RFE/RL that they specifically fear the EU might be forced to ease the sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan in the wake of a bloody security crackdown in Andijon in 2005. Uzbekistan is the region's most populous country, and its cooperation is vital to the success of the EU's wider Central Asia strategy.

Some member states in Brussels now suspect that in the interest of the success of its broader Central Asian strategy, Germany may be attempting to smooth Uzbekistan's path. Uzbekistan is just too big to be given the Wolfowitz treatment by the EU as well.

European Commission spokeswoman Christiane Hohmann told RFE/RL today that EU member states began to hammer out the details of the Central Asian Strategy on April 23.
"During a recent General and External Affairs Council meeting, the member states had their first discussion, a first round of discussions, on the draft for the EU's Central Asian Strategy, which we hope will then be adopted by the June EU summit," she said.

Energy Partner 
All 27 EU member states agree that closer links with Central Asia are desirable.
A meeting in the Kazak capital, Astana, in late March between EU representatives and senior Central Asian officials produced a broad agreement on the need for such a strategy.
The EU has often recognized the region's enormous potential in contributing to meeting the bloc's energy needs. The EU is also interested in playing a greater role in the region and offers assistance in a wide range of fields.

A draft of the declaration the EU intends to adopt on April 23 provides a comprehensive list of EU priorities. These include cooperation on a long list of areas that include the rule of law, human rights, democratisation, and security.

Attached to the declaration is a list of observations relating to the situations in some of the countries of the region. On Uzbekistan, the EU ministers are expected to "note" that a second round of EU-Uzbek expert talks on the Andijan events took place in Tashkent on April 2-3. The draft declaration also announces the launch of " a regular and result-oriented human rights dialogue" between the two sides, and says the first round of the dialogue should take place "as soon as possible."

Dialogue On Rights 
Spokeswoman Hohmann says the EU has already secured Uzbekistan's agreement on such a dialogue.
"We are concerned about the situation in Uzbekistan, and you also know that we are hoping for a [prompt] human rights dialogue -- which the Uzbek government has [already] agreed to," she said.

A demonstration against Uzbek President Islam Karimov took place in Brussels in May 2006. An EU source who requested anonymity said there is dissatisfaction among some member states over Germany's attempts to launch an immediate human rights dialogue with Tashkent before the bloc can debate the future of the Uzbek sanctions.
The sanctions at this point consist of a visa ban on select officials associated with the Andijon events and an arms embargo. They are due to be reviewed by EU foreign ministers in May.

During discussions among EU ambassadors on April 17, Britain and Sweden were said to have been particularly concerned about Uzbekistan's continuing dismal human rights record.

Paving The Way? 
A regular human rights dialogue and an international inquiry into the events in Andijan are the two key EU conditions for lifting sanctions. Some member states in Brussels now suspect that in the interest of the success of its broader Central Asian strategy, Germany may be attempting to smooth Uzbekistan's path to meeting the two conditions.

There is little to indicate that Uzbekistan can achieve genuine compliance with either condition. One EU official today conceded that the human rights dialogue would only take place once a year between low-level officials in a subcommittee dealing with justice and domestic-affairs issues. Within the framework of that dialogue, Uzbekistan can raise issues about the human rights situation in EU member states. A similar arrangement the EU has with Russia has become a forum for tit-for-tat comments.

The two rounds of EU-Uzbek expert talks on the Andijan events have left EU members thoroughly frustrated. EU officials questioned by RFE/RL limited their appraisals of the meetings to "satisfaction" at the fact that they took place at all. Uzbekistan, on the other hand, has not given any indication it is prepared to discuss the Andijan events with any outside organization.

On November 8, 2006, Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov told reporters after a meeting with EU officials that the purpose of the talks would be limited to "explaining" to EU experts the Uzbek view that the events in Andijan were "pre-meditated terrorist acts."
EU officials said today that the situation in Central Asia was also raised at talks that EU representatives held with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the bloc's foreign ministers' meeting on April 23.

Uzbekistan and Egypt sign ten cooperation agreements
President Mubara on 18 April received Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who paid a three-day visit to Egypt. Talks between the two leaders tackled the latest developments in Palestine, Iraq, Iranian nuclear file and its implications on security in the Gulf, Central Asia and the World at large. 

The talks also touched on ways of boosting Egyptian Uzbek relations in the fields of trade, investment and economy. The talks also touched on ways of cementing cooperation in the field of culture, tourism, science and information and encouraging the establishment of partnerships among private sector companies in both countries. 

Presidents Mubarak and Karimov presided over an expanded session of talks attended by delegations from both countries and tackled bilateral relations. 

Then, President Mubarak hosted a lunch banquet on honour of the Uzbek President and his accompanying delegation. In a joint statement, the two Presidents voiced support to all efforts aimed at averting clashes among civilizations. They also underlined the necessity of respect for religions and cultural identities and traditions of peoples. This from Islam Karimov who had an Islamic fanatic boiled alive because he refused to stop praying. 

The two Presidents highlighted their full cooperation within the framework of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference to coordinate stances on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

According to the joint statement, talks between the Egyptian and Uzbek Presidents dealt with means of boosting bilateral cooperation in the various domains. The two leaders voiced their support for all efforts aimed at non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Uzbek side voiced support for the Egyptian initiative rendering the Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction. 

"President Hosni Mubarak is keen to beef up cooperation ties with Central Asian countries," a presidential spokesman said. 

In statements after the meeting between Mubarak and visiting Uzbek President Islam Karimov on April 18th, Solaiman Awwad said the two Presidents probed the latest developments in the Middle East and Central Asia. The talks also dwelt on trade, economic and investment cooperation, he added. 

The two leaders also discussed the outcome of the joint Egyptian-Uzbek committee meeting in Tashkent in March. President Mubarak has made it clear months ago that Egypt was seeking to contain crises in the region to avoid further complications. This is evident in Egyptian efforts to address the situation in Syria, Lebanon as well as the volatile conditions in Iraq and Darfur, he said. 

On whether Egypt's efforts to activate ties with central Asian countries were meant to address a message to Iran, Awwad said invigoration of ties is an objective in itself rather than a means to send a message to Iran. 

Cooperation with central Asian countries in the investment, trade and economic domains is among President Mubarak's priorities, he said. 

When President Mubarak meets any of the leaders of these countries, it should not be taken within other contexts. 

On recent statements by a US official on US commitment to guaranteeing Israel's military supremacy in the region, Awwad said he would not talk of military issues. Yet, he said Egypt hoped the US would play a neutral part in the region to give a real push to the peace process. 

Asked if Egypt would send a peacekeeping contingent to Sudan's western region of Darfur, Awwad cited previous statements by President Mubarak rejecting that unless the Abuja peace agreement was expanded to include all Darfur parties. 

Moreover, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Uzbek President Islam Karimov attended on Wednesday a ceremony marking the signing of ten cooperation agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between the two countries. The agreements and MoUs cover the investment, banks, combating organized crime and terrorism, culture, sport and mass media domains. 

The first agreement which is represented in a MoU between the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the Central Bank of Uzbekistan was signed by CBE Deputy Governor Tarek Amer and F. Mullajanov, the Governor of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan. 

The second agreement covers cooperation between the two countries in the investment domain. It was signed by chairman of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) Zyad Bahaa Eddin and Uzbek Minister of Foreign and Economic Affairs Elyor Ganiev. 

The third one is a cooperation agreement in the judicial domain. It was signed by Egyptian Justice Minister Mamdouh Marie and Uzbek Foreign Minister V. Norov. 

The fourth agreement which covers bilateral cooperation in the field of combating terrorism and organized crime was signed by Egyptian Justice Minister Mamdouh Marie and chairman of the Uzbek National Security Council R. Inoyatov. 

The fifth one is a cooperation memorandum of understanding between the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Uzbek national library. It was inked by Minister of Higher Education Hani Helal and his Uzbek opposite number R. Kasimov. 

The sixth agreement was signed by Minister of Higher Education Hani Helal and his Uzbek counterpart R. Kasimov. It is a protocol on culture cooperation between the two countries. 

The seventh is cooperation MoU in the sport domain. It was inked by Minister of Higher Education Hani Helal and his Uzbek opposite number R. Kasimov. 

The eighth agreement is a cooperation agreement between the Egyptian Organization for Standardisation and Quality Control and the Uzbekistan Agency for Standardisation, Metrology and Certification. It was hammered out by Egyptian Administrative Development Minister Ahmed Darwish and Uzbek Minister of Foreign Economic Relations V. Norov. 

The ninth one is a protocol on cooperation between the two countries in the information domain. It was inked by Egyptian Information Minister Anas el-Fiqi and Uzbek Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Norov. 

The tenth and last agreement is a MoU on cooperation between the Ministry of International Cooperation and the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade. Signing the agreement were Egyptian Minister of Economic Development Osman Mohamed Osman and Uzbek Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments, and Trade E. Ganiev. 

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UT-Bank doubles assets in 2006

Uzbek-Turkish UT-Bank increased its assets 100 percent to 33.8 billion sum in 2006, a source in the bank said, Interfax News Agency reported on April 9th.
The bank's credit portfolio increased more than 200 percent to 4.7 billion sum, and its liabilities increased 160 per cent to 26.7 billion sum, and equities - 7.6 per cent, to amount to 7.1 billion sum at the start of 2007. UT-Bank net profit increased 28.5 per cent to 732.5 million sum in 2006. UT-Bank was set up in 1993 and is the first bank in Uzbekistan set up with foreign capital. Uzbekistan's Pakhtabank and Turkey's TS Ziraat Bankasi own 50 percent of the bank's charter capital each. The Uzbek banking system currently has 28 banks, of which five were set up with participation by foreign capital.

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BBH, Sarbast Plus to open brewery in Tashkent

The Sarbast Plus joint venture, which is controlled by Baltic Beverages Holding (BBH), is planning to launch production at a brewery in Tashkent in June 2007, a source at Sarbast said, Interfax News Agency reported.
"We are planning to start production at the start of the season in June," the source said. The construction of the brewery is in its final stages. "Technological equipment is being installed, and is 80 percent-85 percent completed," the company representative said. The brewery will produce one new local brand in the premium segment to be sold in the country - Sarbast, which was developed with the use of European technologies. The joint venture is not planning to produce the traditional BBH brands. BBH and Sarbast Plus set up the Sarbast Plus joint venture in 2006. BBH has a 75.1 percent stake in the joint venture, while the Uzbek Company owns 24.9 percent. The new company is building a 59-million Euro brewery in Tashkent. The brewery has projected production capacity of one million hectolitres of beer per year. BBH said beer consumption in Uzbekistan, which has a population of 27 million, averages about ten litres per person per year. The Uzbek beer market has been developing steadily in recent years. BBH is a joint company of Denmark's Carlsberg and Britain's Scottish & Newcastle.

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Bulgaria, Uzbekistan to cooperate in several sectors

Bulgaria's Regional Development and Public Works Minister, Assen Gagaouzov, signed a protocol on economic, scientific and technological cooperation between Bulgaria and Uzbekistan during the second session of the Mixed Intergovernmental Commission of Bulgaria and Uzbekistan held on April 2-6th in the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Sofia News Agency reported. 
Under the terms of the agreement, Bulgaria and Uzbekistan would cooperate in the fields of pharmaceutical and light industries, telecommunications, environment protection, education and health care and scientific and technological cooperation, Bulgaria's Regional Development Ministry told Sofia News Agency. Gagaouzov and Uzbekistan's Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade Minister Elyor Ganiyev are Co-Chairmen of the commission. This document supersedes the agreement on economic and trade and science and technology cooperation, signed between the two countries in 1998. Gagaouzov launched a Bulgarian-Uzbek business forum and presented the sectors attractive for investment in Bulgaria, such as information and communication technologies, electricity generation, electrical engineering, electronics, machine building, metal processing and real assets. He said that companies specialising in construction and environment protection have big chances in Bulgaria in the next years.

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