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TASHKENT, March 16 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed a memorandum with Uzbekistan on Thursday to resume operations halted under the previous Tashkent leadership.
Sources told Reuters this month the EBRD was close to restarting work in the former Soviet republic -- Central Asia's most populous nation -- following the death last year of strongman leader Islam Karimov.
Karimov has been succeeded by his former prime minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and the EBRD's return may encourage reforms in the $70 billion economy, which is still run largely in the Soviet command style.
On Thursday, EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti told reporters in Tashkent the sides had formally agreed to revive the bank's operations and set out the areas of initial engagement such as supporting small and medium business, municipal services, transport, and communications.
The London-based lender will develop a country strategy for Uzbekistan and present it next year, while an EBRD team will put together a pipeline of projects in the months, Chakrabarti said. (Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Lough)