DUSHANBE, June 29, 2012, Asia-Plus -- Uzbekistan has suspended its participation in a Russia-dominated security pact of ex-Soviet nations, officials said Thursday, a move that reflected tensions inside the grouping, Associated Press reported.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization''s spokesman, Vladimir Zainetdinov, said Thursday that it received a note from Uzbekistan declaring the suspension of its involvement in the seven-nation alliance. Zainetdinov wouldn''t comment on possible motives behind the move, and Uzbek officials couldn''t be reached for comment.  The grouping also includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Uzbekistan left the grouping once before in 1999, but returned in 2006, reflecting its strongman ruler''s often unpredictable decisions.

Over the past two decades the 74-year-old Uzbek President Islam Karimov has maneuvered between Russia and the West, periodically shifting loyalties.

Karimov allowed the United States to use a major air base for the war in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, but he fell out with the U.S. and other Western nations after violently cracking down on a 2005 uprising in the city of Andijan and moved to boost ties with Moscow, Associated Press said, noting that in recent years, Karimov has sought to mend ties with the West while Uzbekistan''s relations with Russia have grown colder.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a Moscow-based political expert Vladimir Zharikhin as saying that Uzbekistan''s decision had been prompted by “Karimov''s intention to flirt with the U.S.”  He added that the Uzbek leader later may again lurch in the opposite direction.

Also under Karimov, Uzbekistan''s ties with its Central Asian neighbors often have been strained amid a series of disputes over borders and water-sharing.

In Tajikistan, head of the Majlisi Namoyandagon (Tajikistan’s lower chamber of parliament) Committee on Defense, Security and Public Order Amirqul Azimov criticized Uzbekistan''s move.  “Uzbekistan''s decision doesn''t help collective security in the region,” he was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.  Azimov said that the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan would leave a “hornet''s nest” threatening Central Asia.

Nikolai Fedoryak, a deputy chief of the defense and security committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, also said that Uzbekistan may regret its decision after U.S. and other forces leave Afghanistan as scheduled by the end of 2014.  “It''s regrettable that Uzbekistan made that move without a thorough analysis of its consequences,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The regional security organization was initially formed in 1992 for a five-year period by the members of the CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST) -- Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, which were joined by Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Belarus the following year.  A 1994 treaty “reaffirmed the desire of all participating states to abstain from the use or threat of force,” and prevented signatories from joining any “other military alliances or other groups of states” directed against members states.  The CST was then extended for another five-year term in April 1999, and was signed by the presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.  In October 2002, the group was renamed as the CSTO. Uzbekistan became a full participant in the CSTO on June 23, 2006; and its membership was formally ratified by the Uzbek parliament on March 28, 2008.  The CSTO is currently an observer organization at the United Nations General Assembly.