Uzbek leader slams idea of closer ex-Soviet union

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Uzbek President Islam Karimov on Wednesday strongly criticised a Russian-backed proposal for closer integration among former Soviet nations, saying history cannot be reversed.

"When they talk about the integration process and create different inter-state organisations to this end, we should always be vigilant of the fact that these organisations could become increasingly political," said Karimov.

"And this negatively affects the member states' relations and partnerships with other foreign countries," he said at a ceremony marking Constitution Day.

The comments were the first by Karimov since Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan last month greed to set up a new Eurasian economic union, which is loosely modelled on the EU.

Karimov called the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union a logical historical process, remarks that contrast with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's description of the event as a "catastrophe".

The Uzbek leader added that his country needed foreign investment to modernise its economy and was ready to build closer ties with any country "no matter which part of the world they are in."

"We do not need someone's permission to to conduct such a policy," said Karimov. "History cannot be reversed."

Resource-rich Uzbekistan has previously distanced itself from other Russian-led initiatives such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisations -- sometimes dubbed a regional rival of NATO -- and the Customs Union.

Washington and the European Union have made recent efforts to re-engage Uzbekistan after ties between Tashkent and the West strained over accusations of rights abuses which the Uzbek government denies.

The US giant automaker General Motors, which produces Chevrolet cars in Uzbekistan, in November opened a new engine factory in Tashkent province.

© 2011 AFP

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