BRUSSELS, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- European leaders weren't tough enough when they pressed the president of Uzbekistan on human rights issue, Human Rights Watch alleges.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov during meetings with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was pressed to free political prisoners and expand military cooperation with the European community, London's The Independent newspaper reports.
Human Rights Watch in its annual report, however, criticized what it described as habitual support for regimes that it considers repressive.
The European Union was criticized for lifting sanctions on Uzbekistan after state security forces fired on protesters in Andijan in 2005, killing at least 187 people.
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said it was hard to find a "more ruthless" leader in the world than Karimov.
"For him to be received warmly by Mr. Barroso is in a sense a culmination of this gradual capitulation to Uzbekistan," he was quoted by The Independent as saying.
Barroso, however, defended his actions, describing support of Uzbekistan as "conditional."