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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
The US-Uzbekistan trade-off
Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld will examining military options
By the BBC's Monica Whitlock

The visit of United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Uzbekistan is being watched carefully, not only in Uzbekistan, but throughout central Asia.

Uzbekistan is the one country on Mr Rumsfeld's current diplomatic tour that shares a frontier with Afghanistan, widely believed to be where Osama Bin Laden lives.

Islam Karimov
Karimov: Close relationship with US
The Uzbeks could potentially provide practical help to Washington, if asked, in the form of ground routes into Afghanistan and air bases.

There is a huge Uzbek base right on the Afghan border that was the headquarters of the Soviet army when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Launch new window : CLICKABLE MAP
Afghanistan’s neighbours: Regional fears
President Islam Karimov sets great store by his good relationship with the US. He has used it as a lever to prise away Russian authority over his country.

Friendship with the US could also give the stamp of approval to his domestic policies.

Tashkent dilemmas

His police have arrested thousands of young men, mainly the poor and the desperate, in the last few years on the grounds that they are religious extremists - in other words, possible challengers to the status quo.

Yet Mr Rumsfeld's visit also shows up the dilemmas facing Tashkent.

Too loud an appreciation of the United States could create problems for Mr Karimov at home, while some people privately admire the Taleban way of doing things as an alternative to the repression and injustice they feel is their lot at present.

Looking regionally, Mr Karimov could be taking a risk if he becomes the only central Asian leader to support an attack on a neighbouring state.

Mr Karimov has set explicit provisos on any Uzbek assistance to Washington, including that the United Nations must in future guarantee the safety of Uzbek borders.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Heap
looks at what the Arab world might want in return for backing the Western Alliance
See also:

04 Oct 01 | Middle East
Egypt's cautious backing for US
03 Oct 01 | Middle East
Gaza violence clouds Rumsfeld mission
01 Oct 01 | Middle East
Military build-up alarms Gulf Arabs
02 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Uzbekistan backs 'unnatural' ally
02 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair promises victory over terror
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