The European Union has urged Uzbek officials to make more progress in implementing the democratic process in the central Asian country.

European Union officials told the Uzbek delegation Wednesday in Brussels that Tashkent must increase efforts to comply with international norms and standards of law, democracy and human rights.

The seventh EU-Uzbekistan Council was the first major meeting between the EU and Uzbekistan since the 25-nation bloc imposed sanctions against the former Soviet republic in November 2005.

The EU sanctions on Uzbekistan are due to expire November 14. The European bloc's foreign ministers will meet in Brussels next week to decide whether to ease sanctions or extend them for another year.

Some countries are in favor of easing sanctions on the energy rich country, arguing that sanctions have not affected President Islam Karimov's authoritarian rule.

Human rights groups urge more sanctions against what they say is President Karimov's rule of terror and harassment. They have also been demanding an independent inquiry into the May 13, 2005 massacre in Andijan when troops opened fire on protesters and killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.