Uzbeks to Lose EU Sanctions

BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers will agree next week to suspend sanctions on Uzbekistan for another six months but warn they can be reapplied if human rights conditions do not improve.

The 27-nation bloc imposed visa bans on senior Uzbek officials, including the defense minister and national security chief, after authorities in the former Soviet republic crushed a revolt in the town of Andizhan in 2005, with heavy loss of life.

Germany has led a push to drop the sanctions, and last October EU foreign ministers agreed to a six-month suspension, while warning they would be reapplied if there was not progress on human rights and democracy.

A statement drafted by EU ambassadors Thursday said the EU remained seriously concerned about the rights situation in Uzbekistan.

It welcomed some progress, however, including abolition of the death penalty and the release of some human rights activists.