People carry a coffin during a mourning ceremony following the death of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, in Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
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Uzbekistan's widely criticized authoritarian leader Islam Karimov was hailed as a statesman and democrat by his government as he was laid to rest Saturday in the ancient silk road city of Samarkand.Karimov became the leader of Uzbekistan in 1989, when it was a Soviet republic, and held power with ruthless determination throughout all of Uzbekistan's independence.Karimov cultivated no apparent successor, and his death raised concerns that the predominantly Sunni Muslim country could face prolonged infighting among clans over its leadership, something its Islamic radical movement could exploit.However, the head of the Uzbek senate is regarded as unlikely to seek permanent power and Karimov's demise is expected to set off a period of jockeying for political influence.Two top officials are seen as likely successors to Karimov -- Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Rustam Azimov, who is the finance minister and deputy prime minister.
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