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article imageUzbekistan's feared national security chief replaced: media

By AFP     Jan 31, 2018 in World

Uzbekistan's notorious national security chief Rustam Inoyatov has been replaced as the Uzbek leader seeks to consolidate his hold over the Central Asian country.

Inoyatov, 73, "was released from duty" after 23 years in charge of the SNB security service, state newspaper Halk Sozi said on Wednesday.

He was replaced by Ikhtiyor Abdullayev, a former chief prosecutor.

Kamoliddin Rabbimov, an independent analyst based in France, said the removal of Inoyatov from his post makes President Shavkat Mirziyoyev the "fully-fledged master of the republic".

"Now there will be big changes. The mandate of the national security service will be downsized," Rabbimov told AFP in emailed comments.

"Its domination over Uzbek political life will be scaled back."

During an end-of-year address last December Mirziyoyev said the outmoded security service should be overhauled to "be on guard for our external and internal security."

He had also used the speech to attack state economists, lawmakers and a former police chief now believed to be under arrest who he accused of "treachery".

Analysts saw the marathon address, and another speech this month where he promised to remove internal security service agents from Uzbekistan's embassies abroad, as paving the way for a showdown with Inoyatov.

The hugely powerful security service chief was widely viewed as a potential kingmaker when Mirziyoyev's predecessor, Islam Karimov, died of a reported stroke in 2016.

He remained powerful in the immediate aftermath of Karimov's death but appeared to grow isolated as Mirziyoyev moved to consolidate his power and appointed allies to head the key defence and interior ministries last year.

Mirziyoyev, 60, served as Karimov's prime minister for 13 years, and emerged as Uzbekistan's new leader quickly after the death of the strongman whose rule of nearly three decades began during the late Soviet era.

Officially, Mirziyoyev has honoured Karimov and his legacy, but the new president has rolled back some of his predecessor's most excessive and unpopular authoritarian policies.

In addition to freeing nearly a dozen prominent political prisoners, he has made several steps towards opening up the country's economy to much needed foreign investment.

Last year he ordered a lifting of restrictions on foreign exchange that had fostered a powerful black market.

He has also pledged to relax the highly regulated economy as the country bids to join the World Trade Organisation.

The authoritarian system with almost no political competition and virtually no independent media remains intact however.

Uzbekistan, a landlocked country of about 32 million people, is rich in a number of commodities, including gas and gold.

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