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Washington loves a dictator

By Nicole Colson | March 22, 2002 | Page 2

WHAT DO you get for letting the U.S. military use your country as an air base? A free pass to torture your citizens.

Last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell welcomed Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to Washington, D.C., with open arms.

The Bush administration admits that Karimov's government is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world. The State Department's annual report on human rights--released less than two weeks before Karimov showed up--called Uzbekistan "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights."

"The Government does not permit the existence of opposition parties," reads the report. "Security force mistreatment resulted in the deaths of several citizens in custody…The security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, on false charges, particularly Muslims suspected of extremist sympathies, frequently planting narcotics, weapons or banned literature on them."

But that didn't stop the administration from rolling out the red carpet for a man who recently extended his term of office to 2007 through a sham referendum. After all, immediately after September 11, Karimov granted permission for the U.S. to station troops at his air base in Hanabad.

He knew the action would pay off for him big time. The U.S. Export-Import Bank recently granted a $55 million credit guarantee to Karimov--and U.S. aid to the country tripled to $160 million.

No wonder Karimov told reporters: "The United States may remain in Uzbekistan as long as they think it is necessary."

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