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New Uzbek leader's reforms greeted warily

Economic change not seen leading to political opening

Foreign currency is difficult to obtain from banks at Uzbekistan’s artificially low official exchange rate. (Photo by Ikrom Nosirov)

TASHKENT -- Two men rushed over to an approaching car in a dark market alley. After a brief exchange of words, the driver handed over a few $100 notes and received a pile of Uzbek som in return.

The scene, a common sight in the isolated Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan, is a consequence of government restrictions on the circulation of foreign currency. Newly elected President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has promised to reform policies that have driven such activity into the black market.

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