Kyrgyz revolution could spread to neighboring Uzbekistan, oppposition warns

Inspired with the quick ouster of a longtime leader in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Uzbek opposition on Friday voiced hope for similar events soon in this tightly-controlled ex-Soviet nation.

At their meeting on Friday, Free Peasants and Erk opposition parties and local rights groups welcomed the ouster of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev when thousands of opposition protesters took over government buildings Thursday.

"We are sure that the process of democratic reforms that started in Kyrgyzstan will highly influence all parts of Central Asia," they said in a joint statement.

Kyrgyzstan became the third former Soviet republic in 18 months, after Georgia and Ukraine, to see popular protests bring down long-entrenched leaders widely accused of corruption.

"Kyrgyz example has shown everyone how easily and quickly it can be done," Nigora Khidoyatova, a leader of Free Peasants' party, told The Associated Press.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov's government long has drawn international criticism for the lack of democratic reforms, poor human rights record and stagnating economy that resulted in bringing most of the 25 million population under the poverty line.

"Uzbekistan has lost its chance to start reforms and it is too late now," Khidoyatova, the country's main opposition leader, told The Associated Press. "The authorities have led the country to the dead end and only the dismissal of the ruling regime could change the situation for the better."

Opposition parties are officially banned in Uzbekistan and have been prevented from participating in the December parliamentary election that was widely criticized as neither free nor fair. It's unclear how much support the small and divided opposition enjoys in Uzbekistan.

Uzbek leadership has not expressed its stance yet toward the developments in Kyrgyzstan, but it already has tightened security along the border between the two nations. AZIZ NURITOV Associated Press

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