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Clinton Hails 'Bold Endeavor' of Kyrgyz Democracy

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbayeva, right, in Bishkek, 2 Dec 2010.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbayeva, right, in Bishkek, 2 Dec 2010.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, continuing a Central Asia visit Thursday in the Kyrgyzstan, hailed what she termed that country's "bold endeavor" of building a parliamentary democracy.

Clinton's visit comes as Kyrgyz political leaders put the final touches on a coalition government that will climax a tumultuous year in which the Central Asian state will have gone from violent upheaval to becoming the region's first true parliamentary democracy.

At a media event after meeting Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbeyeva, the secretary hailed what she calls the "resolve" of the Kyrgyz people to hold elections - widely regarded as free, fair and legitimate - only months after the country was rocked by bitter ethnic and political strife.

"I expressed to the president the admiration the United States feels for the difficult road that Kyrgyzstan has decided to walk,” said Clinton. “This is a bold endeavor that the people of this country have undertaken - reinventing its democratic governance with a strong parliament designed to represent the full diversity of the people and regions in Kyrgyzstan.

President Otunbeyeva, who emerged as interim leader after the ouster of the previous government in April, helped put the troubled country on its new course with a constitutional referendum in July for a new system that will transfer many state powers to a new prime minister.

She expressed appreciation for American financial support through what she calls her country's "very difficult life" in recent months.

The referendum came only a few weeks after an outburst of ethnic violence in the country's south, between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in which as many as 2,000 people were killed and about 400,000 others driven from their homes.

Clinton is expressing hope that trials for those accused of fomenting the violence, mainly Uzbeks and officials of the former government of now exiled ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, proceed with full due process of law.

Clinton and Ms. Otunbayeva discussed the status of the accord giving U.S. military aircraft en route to Afghanistan access to the Manas airbase near Bishkek.  They were also supposed to take up a similar arrangement with Uzbekistan on land access to Afghanistan, in talks later Thursday in Tashkent.

She said he would raise the issue of the Uzbek government's human rights record with President Islam Karimov despite his support on Afghanistan.

"We will certainly raise that, as we always have.  Sometimes countries are willing to work with us to improve their human rights profile and to support democratic development, and sometimes it's a hard case to make," Clinton said.  "I'm well aware of the many challenges existing in Uzbekistan.  I'm looking forward to meeting with President Karimov to discuss the full range of issues."

From Tashkent, Clinton flies to Bahrain - the last stop on her four-nation trip - to attend a privately sponsored regional security conference Friday.

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