US denies plan to open air base in Uzbekistan

The United States envoy denied a plan to re-open a military base in Uzbekistan on Sunday as he ended a rapid tour of former Soviet Central Asia.

US denies plan to open air base in Uzbekistan

The United States envoy denied a plan to re-open a military base in Uzbekistan on Sunday as he ended a rapid tour of former Soviet Central Asia.

US envoy Richard Holbrooke met here Friday with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov for talks on the US-led offensive in neighbouring Afghanistan, officials said.

Holbrooke's visit comes as the United States works to improve a relationship with Uzbekistan that West and US see "useful" in the volatile region.

Uzbekistan's leader told the U.S. envoy he was "determined to cooperate with the United States against the Taliban from Afghanistan."

Holbrooke was quoted as telling Karimov that he too wanted to "strengthen cooperation with Uzbekistan over "security".

General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq visited the Central Asian country twice over the past year.

New base?

Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan, evicted U.S. troops from the Karshi-Khanabad base after Washington condemned it over a violent crackdown on a protest in the town of Andizhan in May 2005.

Relations have since improved, and some diplomats have suggested Washington may try to re-open the base.

Speaking after a visit to Uzbekistan, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke ruled out the possibility when asked about it in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

"No," he said. "But Uzbekistan does provide us with a valuable opportunity to transit materials to Afghanistan and that is important. (As for) the military base - no."

Keen to restore its sour relations with the West, Uzbekistan has agreed to allow NATO military supplies to Afghanistan invasion.

"Forgotten human rigths lessons"

The United States, which has a military air base in Kyrgyzstan, has stepped up its presence in Central Asia since the start of the Afghan invasion in 2001.

Once fiercely critical of Uzbekistan's human rights record, the United States and its allies have forgotten their "human rigths lessons" over the civilian killings in past years, shifting their focus more to military issues.

Last year the European Union angered international human rights groups by lifting sanctions it imposed on Uzbekistan after troops shot hundreds of protesters in Andizhan.

Witnesses said hundreds of people died in the event.

Agencies

Last Mod: 21 Şubat 2010, 15:17
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