During a Central Asian tour that focused on regional security issues, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gingerly applied pressure on the presidents of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to improve their dubious human rights records. When pressing Uzbek President Islam Karimov to reform, Clinton reportedly secured a commitment from him to change his ways. But the lack of any specific reform pledges made skeptics wonder if Karimov was merely saying what the secretary of state wanted to hear.
Clinton visited Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on October 22 as part of a regional tour that earlier had taken her to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Karimov reportedly told Clinton -- according to a senior State Department official speaking on background -- that he wants to go down in the history books as a reformer.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.