Uzbek anti-terrorism official accuses US

The Uzbek head of a regional anti-terrorism center accused the United States and Albania on Monday of double standards for their refusal to send home Chinese citizens wanted in their Communist homeland on terrorism charges.

"When unilateral decisions are made and double standards used, we question the acceptability of such steps," said Vyacheslav Kasymov, director of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's anti-terrorism center.

"We call on the United States and Albania to objectively consider anti-terrorism requests of Chinese authorities," he told The Associated Press.

The Russian and Chinese-dominated organization, which also includes four former Soviet republics in Central Asia, is seen as a response to the greater U.S. presence in Central Asia after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Earlier this month, China criticized the United States for sending five Chinese citizens released from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay to Albania because of concerns that they would be persecuted in China. The five men have requested asylum in the Balkan country.

Chinese officials said the five members of the Uighur minority are suspected of belonging to a violent separatist group in China's northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang.

After the United States and European Union ostracized Uzbekistan for brutally suppressing an uprising in the eastern city of Andijan last May, President Islam Karimov closed a U.S. military base on Uzbek soil and renewed close ties with Beijing and Moscow.

Last month, Uzbek authorities brushed off calls to release a native of Xinjiang with Canadian citizenship who was arrested in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and is wanted in China on suspicion of terrorism and could face execution if returned, reports the AP.

I.L.