Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan Vow to Resist Upheaval

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan vowed on Friday to resist attempts by the West to export a Ukrainian-style revolution to Central Asia.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov warned Western ambassadors against helping his opposition and said he had enough strength to stamp out any upheaval.

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev said public protests in his country were likely to end in a civil war.

"Some are dying to see that the way the elites in Georgia and Ukraine changed becomes a model to be emulated by other countries," Karimov, who tolerates no opposition, told parliament in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.

"To those who still have not understood me, I want to issue a warning that everything should be on the basis of law and we will rein in those who move outside the framework of law," he said. "We have the necessary force for that."

Looking directly at Western ambassadors, whose countries he had accused of financing the opposition, Karimov said: "Those sitting up there in the balcony should understand that better."

Akayev, whose country holds a parliamentary election Feb. 27 and presidential polls in October, said that a relatively free political environment exposed Kyrgyzstan to the dangers of a "velvet revolution."

The Kyrgyz opposition fears that he plans to extend his final term in the October polls.

"These [revolutionary] technologies work in countries where the soil is ready to take democracy," Akayev said in an interview with the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"In Kyrgyzstan, they may work because we have the basics of democracy in place."

Though opposition protests have so far drawn only a few hundred demonstrators, the Kyrgyz government has introduced strict new rules to outlaw street protests.

Akayev, whose aides have accused the West of encouraging the opposition, said there was little chance for a peaceful revolution in Central Asia.

"Such schemes of seizing power would simply lead to civil war here," he said.

Russia has stoked fears among its Central Asian allies. "No doubt, certain international organizations have huge interest in changing leaders in the Commonwealth of Independent States," CIS executive secretary Vladimir Rushailo told a news conference in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, where he was dispatched by Moscow to monitor the polls.

 About 2,000 Kazakh opposition activists gathered in Almaty on Saturday to protest the closure of a leading opposition party, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, The Associated Press reported.

Protesters also expressed solidarity with the opposition protests in Ukraine that helped pave the way for Viktor Yushchenko's election as president.