Uzbek Leader’s Visit to Brussels Was NATO’s Idea

President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, June 11, 2010.

From  NATO, not the European Union, initiated the idea of inviting Uzbekistan’s controversial leader, Islam Karimov, to visit Brussels, according to an aide to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Karimov is scheduled to meet with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Barroso, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, as well as Belgian authorities, on January 24.

“To my knowledge it was NATO and the Belgian authorities who issued the invitation first. We did not make the invitation,” Michael Karnitschnig, a spokesman for Barroso, told .

A spokeswoman for NATO would not say on what date the alliance issued the invite to Karimov. “We will discuss cooperation between NATO and Uzbekistan in supporting Afghanistan, and also how to deepen our cooperation in the framework of the Partnership for Peace,” she added.

EU representatives have tried to downplay the visit, which has caused an uproar among international human rights organizations. Rights activists say Karimov is one of the most autocratic rulers on earth, and they consistently rank Uzbekistan near the bottom on global lists measuring corruption and political repression.  (photo: Reuters)

Image: reuters%201%2021%2011%20Islam%20Karimov.jpg