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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 02:10 GMT 03:10 UK
British envoy leaves Uzbekistan
Tashkent
There are no opposition parties in Tashkent
The British ambassador to Uzbekistan has returned home for medical treatment, the Foreign Office has said.

Craig Murray, 44, has spoken out against the Central Asian country's human rights record and the persecution of Muslims.

But the Foreign Office said it supports his views and said it had nothing to do with his return to the UK.

A charge d'affaires has been sent to the former Soviet republic as acting ambassador until the Scot is well enough to return to work.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Craig Murray, our ambassador in Tashkent, is currently in Britain to undergo medical treatment.

"He remains our ambassador in Tashkent."

Earlier this year President Islam Karimov, a former communist, was criticised at a meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for failing to pledge to improve his country's record on human rights.

In a speech last November in Tashkent, Mr Murray said up to 10,000 political or religious prisoners were being detained.

Islam Karimov
Karimov has been criticised by human rights groups
He urged the Uzbek Government not to use the so-called war on terror to persecute the country's Muslims.

Mr Murray said there was no fair justice system and little progress in creating a democracy.

His comments were included in the Foreign Office's annual report on human rights, published two weeks ago.

The spokeswoman added: "Mr Murray has made very clear his views and indeed we endorse them... we do have concerns about the deterioration of human rights in Uzbekistan."

The Foreign Office spokesman said she could not comment on his medical condition.

In July the World Bank said Uzbekistan had one of the lowest ratings for economic growth and the poorest standards of living througout the former Soviet Union.




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