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China Strengthens Alliance with Embattled Uzbekistan Leadership


China is pledging its support for the embattled government of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov. The Uzbek leader is on the second day of his visit to China, where he has signed a number of trade deals.

Among the 14 agreements signed is a $600 million oil and gas deal that analysts say highlights China's desire to use diplomacy to feed its rapidly growing energy needs.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan repeated Beijing's support for Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov and his government.

"They are facing the challenges of the three forces: separatism; extremism; and terrorism," the spokesman said. "China and Uzbekistan share many common interests. We hope, through joint efforts, to strengthen our bilateral ties to, on one hand, to make our cooperation more fruitful and on the other to [strengthen] our common drive to safeguard peace and stability in the region."

Mr. Karimov's government is under international scrutiny after troops in northeastern Uzbekistan opened fire two weeks ago on thousands of unarmed demonstrators. Officials say 169 people were killed, but witnesses and human rights groups say more than 700 died.

Beijing has not joined calls by the United States, the United Nations, and others for an independent investigation into the killings. Regional political analysts say this may be because of China's efforts to secure oil and get regional cooperation for its own battles against dissent.

The violence in Uzbekistan happened in Andijan, not far from the border with China's Xinjiang region where Beijing is fighting separatists from the largely Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

The Uzbek leader's three-day visit to China began with a warm welcome Wednesday, which included a 21-gun salute and a private meeting with President Hu Jintao.

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