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US Defense Secretary to Hold Talks in Uzbekistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is arriving in Uzbekistan Tuesday for three days of talks on regional security matters. Human rights organizations are urging Mr. Rumsfeld to press the government of President Islam Karimov for improvements in its human rights record.

Hours before Mr. Rumsfeld's arrival, a court in Uzbekistan freed the jailed mother of a Muslim dissident who had accused prison authorities of torturing her son to death.

The high profile case was potentially embarrassing for President Karimov who is to hold talks this week with visiting Secretary Rumsfeld. The focus of the talks are U.S.-Uzbek relations and security concerns in Central Asia and neighboring Afghanistan.

Human rights organizations have appealed to Mr. Rumsfeld before his arrival in Tashkent to tell his hosts to improve their poor human right record if they want continued U.S. aid.

Critics accuse the U.S. administration of overlooking human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev told AP in an interview the United States will be allowed to keep its military in Uzbekistan as long as it carries out its anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.