Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 143

Speaking at a press conference on July 24 in Tashkent, U.S. ambassador Joseph Pressel indicated that U.S.-Uzbek relations are developing more promisingly in the military area than in other areas. Pressel praised Uzbekistan’s active participation in the U.S.-sponsored CentrasBat military exercises, in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, and in U.S.-Uzbek programs for defense industry conversion. Moreover, according to Pressel, Uzbek officers currently undergoing training in the United States “will form the backbone of Uzbekistan’s armed forces.”

At the same time, Pressel served notice that the United States “will continue criticizing the Uzbek leadership’s approach to human rights.” While conceding “recent positive changes in the situation of human rights,” he found the improvements insufficient. Pressel expressed dissatisfaction over the state of Uzbek-U.S. economic relations, citing the decline of bilateral trade turnover from US$511 million in 1996 to US$282 million in 1997. U.S. investment in Uzbekistan has also declined from the US$600 million level it had reached in 1996. Pressel blamed these trends on Uzbekistan’s currency regulations, which make the som nonconvertible, as well as on “bureaucracy and corruption” in the country. (International agencies, July 24)

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