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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 06:43 GMT
Uzbekistan bars British minister
By Monica Whitlock
BBC News, Tashkent

Uzbek President Islam Karimov
The Uzbek government also fell out with the UK's former ambassador
Uzbekistan's government has defended its refusal to permit a visit by a British minister, saying his critical approach amounted to interference.

The minister, Bill Rammell, was due in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on Wednesday where he intended to press the government on its poor rights record.

Last year, the British government withdrew its ambassador to Uzbekistan after a row over human rights.

Craig Murray hit the headlines in the UK repeatedly for his strong remarks.

Bill Rammell made his intentions plain well before his trip.

He said he wanted to press the government on human rights and to meet members of the wider community as well as Uzbek officials.

Hours before he was due in Tashkent though, the news broke that the Uzbek side had cancelled.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Mr Rammell's attitude amounted to interference, and he blamed the Mr Murray, the former ambassador, for starting what he called "a negative tendency" towards Uzbekistan.

Most famously, he sent photographs of an Uzbek convict who died in prison to a British pathologist. The pathologist concluded that the man's injuries were consistent with immersion in boiling liquid, though the government said he was killed in a fight.

The case drew much publicity and the fury of the Uzbek authorities. Mr Murray was withdrawn last year.

The British foreign office cited operational reasons. Mr Murray said it was because he had accused the British and US intelligence services of using information extracted by torture in Uzbek jails.

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