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Clinton calls for closer US-Uzbekistan ties

By Bradley Klapper
Associated Press / September 29, 2011

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WASHINGTON—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Uzbekistan is showing signs of improving its human rights record and expanding political freedoms. She says the U.S. wants to strengthen relations with the Central Asian country.

Clinton defended U.S.-Uzbek cooperation a day after Human Rights Watch called on her to oppose military assistance to Uzbekistan's authoritarian government.

The rights group warned that a Senate bill would allow the U.S. to lift restrictions on aid to Uzbekistan imposed in 2004 because of its poor rights record.

Clinton said Uzbekistan is proving very helpful to the U.S. in bringing supplies into Afghanistan and supporting U.S.-led efforts to rebuild its southern neighbor.

She said Thursday the U.S. will continue raising its human rights concerns but that dialogue with the government was starting to pay off.