The EU imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan after it rejected a demand for an international investigation into an uprising in Andijan province in 2005.
 
Uzbek authorities say 187 people were killed in Andijan during what it describes as an uprising by Islamist fighters, but rights groups say hundreds of mainly unarmed protesters were killed.
 
Progress insufficient
 
The EU "stands ready to consider the lifting of restrictions if the Uzbek government engages constructively in the areas of human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms", the 27 EU ministers said.
 
Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency, had wanted the sanctions to be renewed for a shorter period to take account of human rights advances, a European diplomat said.
 
But other member states, including Britain, felt that progress was insufficient.
 
International rights groups had been urging the EU not to drop its sanctions, citing a continued crackdown on rights groups since the unrest.
 
A diplomatic source said that the arms embargo against Uzbekistan would also come up for renewal in six months.
 
While renewing a visa ban, the ministers took four of the 12 blacklisted people off the list, officials said.
 
Three of those removed have given up their official posts, one minister said.