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Uzbek Government Accused of Preventing Opposition Party Meeting - 2003-09-30

An international human rights group says the Uzbek government has effectively prevented an opposition political party from holding a meeting and increased persecution of the group's members.

Human Rights Watch says Uzbek officials never responded to the Erk Democratic Party's request to hold a national congress in Tashkent. Without the government's permission, the New York-based group says the party was unable to rent space for the meeting.

The group's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, Rachel Denber, charges that Uzbek officials use the rhetoric of rule of law and democracy but fail to act in a democratic manner. The rights group says Uzbek officials harassed and threatened Erk party members in a clear attempt to dissuade them from attending the congress.

Ms. Denber says foreign investors and agencies should protest the government's actions and urge it to register opposition parties.

The United States has renewed its travel warnings for Uzbekistan, saying there is information that terrorists may be planning attacks against hotels frequented by Westerners.

The U.S. State Department says it is re-issuing without change its advisory of April 5, and continuing the warning until January 1.

The warning reminds U.S. citizens of the potential for terrorist actions against Americans in Uzbekistan and suggests they evaluate carefully the implications for their security and safety before travel to the Central Asian nation.

The State Department notice says extremist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qaida and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active in the region.