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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Roadblocks to Reform in Uzbekistan

August 09, 2004

You state the case for greater reform in Uzbekistan and the U.S. need to curtail support for the Islam Karimov government with aplomb (editorial, Aug. 4). It's among the most informed editorials that I've read.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of factors that probably will prevent Uzbekistan from reforming while terrorists operate in the country. First, the regime thinks it is locked in a death struggle with international terrorism, and it thinks that only the most brutal response will work in defeating terrorist groups. The U.S. can send all of the messages it wants, but it is very unlikely that this will promote reform or greater democratization in Uzbekistan.

This regime will turn its back on the U.S. and seek support and funding from Russia and China if it feels this will help it maintain power and repress violent Islamist groups.

The tragedy is that Uzbekistan has a real terrorism problem, and it also has a regime without intelligent cadres working on long-term, sustainable solutions. (I worked throughout Uzbekistan for more than a decade as an anthropologist.)

Russell Zanca

Chicago

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