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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 00:23 GMT
UK envoy back at work in Tashkent
By Monica Whitlock
BBC, Tashkent

Murray has upset the authorities in Tashkent
The British ambassador at the centre of a storm of controversy, Craig Murray, is expected to return to his post in Uzbekistan on Saturday.

Mr Murray, a vocal champion of human rights, left in September for London provoking speculation that he had been removed for political reasons.

The British Government has said only that he was unwell and went to London for medical treatment.

Mr Murray made waves with a sensational speech to Uzbek leaders and diplomats.

Uzbekistan was not a functioning democracy, he said, nor did it appear to be moving in the direction of democracy.

There was worse, he went on - there were believed to be 7-10,000 people in detention considered to be political and/or religious prisoners.

No ambassador had spoken out so bluntly before, and the timing made the speech even more startling. It was 2002.

Recall rumour

Uzbekistan had become a launch pad for United States power in Asia through a military base set up after 11 September 2001.

President Islam Karimov had been received at the White House and what is called the "strategic partnership" had begun.

When Mr Murray flew to London unexpectedly six weeks ago, rumour had it that he had been recalled, possibly under US pressure.

The British press picked up the story, some papers making a hero of him.

The British Government has said only that Mr Murray was receiving medical treatment and it was true that he had been in a London hospital.

Mr Murray's return may put an end to the story in Britain but it still resounds in Uzbekistan, where various groups have taken sides.

One human rights group has been marching up and down outside the British Embassy shouting: "Craig Murray, we love you."

A rival group also staged a small demonstration against the ambassador.

Timeline: Uzbekistan
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Reform delays 'hitting Uzbekistan'
08 Jul 03  |  Business


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