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Uzbek Foreign Minister Defends Crackdown on Dissidents

Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev says cracking down on religious and political opposition activists is important in the fight against Islamic extremism.

In an interview with Reuters News Agency Friday, Mr. Safayev said confronting Islamic radicalism is the main challenge facing Uzbek society.

However, he said the government jails those accused of "anti-constitutional activity" and does not arrest anyone on the basis of religious belief.

Uzbekistan, a U.S. ally, announced the arrest of what the government called al-Qaida-linked terror suspects earlier this week.

However, the U.S. government has criticized Uzbekistan's human rights situation, saying the government of President Islam Karimov commits many "serious abuses."

Opposition activists have urged voters to boycott next month's parliamentary elections, saying the vote will not be free, fair or democratic.