Updated: Wed, 27 Mar 2013 14:57:01 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

Uzbek president's daughter blasts senior minister

The eldest daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov has criticised a top government official over his handling of a key economic sector, the first time she has so openly flexed her political muscle.

In her blog on Wordpress, Gulnara Karimova, also known as a fashion designer, pop star and a diplomat, chided long-serving Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov for running Asian Development Bank's (ADB) high-technology projects in "secrecy".

"The Cabinet of Ministers is proceeding with its 'work', under the supervision of Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Azimov, in 'secrecy' and the project thus seems far from being transparent," she wrote, referring to ADB and Uzbek government funded projects in alternative energy resources sector.

Azimov, 55, is the first deputy prime minister and a finance minister. He is considered to be one of the most influential officials serving under president Karimov since the early 1990s in different key government posts.

Gulnara pressed on with her criticism of Azimov on Twitter, telling her followers "...Believe me, they completely don't care about this social sector, for them the most important part is to take away ADB money..."

Gulnara Karimova's comments came ahead of a round table on the development of alternative energy sources in Uzbekistan which was organised by one of the funds that she chairs.

"Mr Azimov took these discussions as a 'provocation' ... (he) had no idea that an open discussion was possible in a real situation," she further tweeted.

Harvard-educated Karimova, 40, has become the public face of the ex-Soviet country, serving as its permanent representative in the United Nations in Geneva and as its ambassador in Spain until 2011.

She also runs jewellery, cosmetics and clothing lines internationally under her Guli label, while heading a number of charity projects and funds in Uzbekistan.

Gulnara's father, 75, has been ruling the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The latest tweets about the top minister fuelled speculation on the Internet over a struggle between the two would-be successors for the presidency of the ex-Soviet republic bordering Afghanistan.

However, an Uzbek expert close to the government denied the suggestions and said that Gulnara is just calling for openness.

"All the activities of Gulnara Karimova and the funds that she has established are directed to promote open dialogue between NGOs, legislators and the public. They call for transparency and achieve positive changes through social dialogue," the expert, who wished not to be named, told AFP.

Karimov on Wednesday received Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov at his residence, the presidency said, apparently putting an end to rumours that the president could be in ill health.

Gulnara's funds support talented youth across the country from arts and music to handicraftsmen and students, granting them micro-credits.

Last December her fund was able to reverse an amendment to the law that banned non-governmental organisations from giving micro-credits to small businesses.

In the latest event showcasing Gulnara's popularity this week, furious football fans asked for her help to find tickets following chaos outside the ticket offices of the newly-built Bunyodkor stadium in Tashkent for the World Cup qualifying game between Uzbekistan and Lebanon.

Gulnara then granted 100 free tickets to football fans and volunteers of her fund that she said she was able to get from the government.


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