Uzbekistan interim leader rules out military alliances

Uzbekistan interim leader rules out military alliances

Almaty (Kazakhstan) (AFP) - Ex-Soviet Uzbekistan's new interim president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has ruled out military alliances, the government said Friday, following the same course as the late veteran strongman Islam Karimov.

Mirziyoyev -- who served as the Central Asian country's prime minister for nearly 13 years -- is the frontrunner to replace Karimov. The presidential election in set to take place on December 4, the country's election commission said Friday.

"The firm position of our country, as before, is non-membership in all military-political alliances and not allowing other states' military bases and facilities on the territory of Uzbekistan," Mirziyoyev told lawmakers, according to a foreign ministry statement.

"No one should doubt that any attempt by internal and external forces to encroach on the sovereignty and independence of our country will be severely suppressed."

Under Karimov, authoritarian Uzbekistan kept strategic partners Russia and the United States at arm's length while attempting to benefit from their rivalry in the majority Muslim region.

The country quit a Russia-led security organisation in 2012 and cancelled the lease of a US military base used in Afghanistan operations after Washington called for an independent investigation into a brutal crackdown in 2005.

Mirziyoyev's remarks were made at a parliament session in which he was appointed interim president ahead of upcoming elections.

He was granted the position after being backed by Senate leader Nigmatilla Yuldashev, who under the constitution should have become interim president ahead of the presidential elections.

Analysts have speculated that powerful deputy premier and finance minister Rustam Azimov could now take on the prime minister's role.

Karimov, 78, was pronounced dead last week after suffering a stroke and falling into a coma following days of speculation about his rapidly failing health.

Karimov led the ex-Soviet state with an iron grip for some 27 years, earning a reputation abroad as one of the region's most savage despots who ruthlessly stamped out opposition and violated human rights.

Before his death, Karimov was one of two reigning presidents in Central Asia to have begun ruling his country before independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The other, Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev, is 76 and has never identified a successor.