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Uzbekistan’s Karimov says wants ‘to keep working’

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan: Uzbekistan’s longtime President Islam Karimov said Thursday he had no intention of leaving office soon, as he opened a conference in the city of Samarkand on Islam’s medieval Golden Age.
The comments from Karimov, 76, come ahead of a presidential vote expected early next year in Central Asia’s most populous country.
“I am one of those who is criticized for staying too long,” Karimov told diplomats and scholars gathered for the conference.
“I am criticized, but I stay. I am criticized but I want to keep working. What’s wrong with that?”
Karimov has ruled the secular mainly Muslim nation of 30 million since it gained independence with the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Uzbekistan is often criticised for tightly controlling society and tolerating no dissent. There was speculation earlier this year about the state of the president’s health but officials have vehemently denied any problems. Karimov was in the ancient Silk Road city to launch an academic conference on preserving the heritage of the Islamic Golden Age, a period of flourishing culture in the Muslim world while Europe was enduring the Dark Ages.
“Today in Uzbekistan there are more than 100,000 manuscripts, most of them included in the UNESCO World Heritage List... waiting for new discoveries,” Karimov told the conference.