WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov discussed the central Asian country's role as a supply route for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a U.S. official said on Thursday, amid growing concern about the stability of Pakistan as a transit point.
The White House said Obama spoke to Karimov on Wednesday to congratulate the former Soviet republic on its 20th anniversary of independence and that they talked about shared interests in a "secure and prosperous" Afghanistan.
Obama's outreach to Karimov, whose has faced U.S. criticism in the past over his human rights record, came as the United States and Pakistan are locked in a diplomatic crisis over U.S. accusations linking Pakistan's chief intelligence agency to attacks on Americans in Afghanistan.
The rising tensions between Washington and Islamabad, at times awkward partners in the fight against Islamic militancy, have raised questions about Pakistan's role as a major U.S. supply route for its forces fighting in Afghanistan.
That has sent U.S. officials scrambling to consider expanding alternatives to reduce reliance on Pakistan.
A senior Obama administration official said the use of Uzbek territory, which already serves as a key supply route for moving U.S. war supplies, was an "important topic of discussion" between Obama and Karimov. AGENCIES