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Uzbek President Blames Andijon Governor For 2005 Unrest

October 16, 2006 -- Reports from Uzbekistan say President Islam Karimov has blamed the outgoing governor of Andijon for an uprising in May 2005 ahead of a bloody crackdown that drew condemnation from Western governments.

Should the Russian news report prove accurate, it would appear to undermine Karimov's earlier claims that foreign-funded "terrorists" were solely responsible for the Andijon uprising.

Local activists and rights groups have long suggested that social and economic hardship contributed to the unrest.

An ITAR-TASS report posted on a pro-government Uzbek website today quotes Karimov as saying Governor Saidullo Begaliev's "short-sighted policies" and "lack of attention to the people's needs" were partly responsible for the unrest.

Karimov reportedly made the remarks while addressing the Andijon regional parliament on October 13.

The same day, Karimov appointed a senior Interior Ministry official, General Ahmad Usmonov, to run the region. But he gave no reason to explain his decision.

Uzbekistan's official UzA news agency says Karimov's criticism of the outgoing governor of Andijon was harsh, but it does not clearly suggest the Uzbek leader blamed Begaliev's shortcomings for the unrest. The agency quotes Karimov as saying the Andijon events were organized by "international extremist groups."

Uzbek authorities say 187 people, including many security officials, died during the Andijon unrest.

Rights groups say the death toll was much higher and have demanded an independent probe of the events of Andijon.

The UN and European Union have similarly urged officials in Tashkent to allow an independent investigation.

(RFE/RL 16.x.06)

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