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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Uzbek opposition lauds sanctions
By Ian MacWilliam
BBC News, Tashkent

Bodies in Andijan. File photo
Uzbekistan is accused of hiding the truth about the Andijan uprising
Opposition groups in Uzbekistan say they are encouraged by the European Union's decision to bring sanctions against the Central Asian country.

The EU has said it will ban weapons exports to Uzbekistan, and will also refuse visas to certain officials.

The move is in response to Uzbekistan's refusal to allow an independent investigation into unrest in Andijan.

Witnesses say hundreds of people were killed there in May, when troops fired on an anti-government demonstration.

The government insists the incident was an uprising by radical Muslims.

The leader of a party belonging to the opposition Sunshine Coalition said she was very encouraged by the EU decision to bring sanctions against Uzbekistan.

Nigara Khidayatova said the ban on visas for some Uzbek officials would be embarrassing for them, and would let the world know that everything was not normal in Uzbekistan.

Media censorship

On Monday Ms Khidayatova was criticised as a troublemaker on state-controlled television.

The Sunshine Coalition is an alliance of opposition groups and businessmen who want free market reforms in Uzbekistan, where much of the stagnating economy is still controlled by government officials.

There has been no reaction yet from the Uzbek government to the EU decision, because the president is on a trip to Malaysia.

Many ordinary people in Tashkent have not heard the news, which has not been reported on the state media.

In one shopping area where traders wait to sell handicrafts to scarce tourists, many say they do not watch government TV or that they are too busy trying to find work to worry about politics.

But others admit they are angry about the shootings in Andijan, and about the ongoing trial of 15 men accused of terrorism for allegedly organising the unrest.

One young man said the trial was all a lie and the sanctions should be tougher.

While many people are afraid to speak openly, such views appear to be spreading in Uzbekistan.


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