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Kazakhstan has started large-scale exercises involving all branches of troops on the coast of the Caspian Sea, in western Mangistau Region, international media reported this week.

Shells with radio detonators would be used for the first time in the country, a report by Kazakh Khabar television said. According to the report, the Sea of Peace-2002 military exercises have started in the western Mangistau Region.

All branches of the Kazakh armed forces will be practicing interaction between the various troops of the Western Military District [WMD]. Preparations for the main event are under way, in which the military will have to deflect an attack by a mock enemy.

On August 8, 2002, Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, signed a law entitled "On the Rights of the Child in the Republic of Kazakhstan". This document shall regulate all relationships relating to the exercise of the fundamental rights and interests of the child guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The law had long been discussed in the parliament and marks a forward step.

The Kazakh media also reported that Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, an opposition leader, was sentenced to seven years in jail on Friday for abuse of office while governor of Pavlodar region. Zhakiyanov founded the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) movement last November, a new political force advocating democratic freedoms and equal business opportunities for all.

The DCK co-founder and ex-Energy Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov was sentenced to six years in jail on similar charges last month. The two former officials have dismissed the charges brought against them as politically motivated and an attempt to strangle Kazakhstan's fledgling opposition movement.

In a separate development, Tajik and Uzbek government working groups have signed a number of bilateral cooperation protocols on the ownership of power transmission lines, the transit of Tajikistan's special and military cargo via Uzbekistan.

The documents were signed by the Tajik Minister of Irrigation, Abduqohir Nazirov, and the Uzbek First Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Abdurrahim Zhalolov.

The accords also include opening of air services between the two countries, cooperation in the field of TV broadcasting, and on working out a unified approach and mechanism to supervise the implementation of the agreement setting up a free trade zone of 15 April 1994. They also relate to levying of indirect taxes on goods imported from either of the countries, and on the setting up of joint ventures, as well as other important documents.

Meanwhile foreign economic, financial and humanitarian assistance continues to pour in for the Central Asian countries after 11 September.

In the latest development, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - the private lending arm of the World Bank - expressed its support to provide credit to the banks of four Central Asian countries for micro finance and small business lending.

IFC will provide up to US $45 million for lending (in the form of credit lines) to local banks for onwards lending in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will provide US $107 million for this same program, with the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) contributing US $3 million, providing a substantial boost to the local banking sector.

Khosrow Zamani, IFC's Director for Southern Europe and Central Asia, said in a press statement: "This new program will enable local banks to offer reliable, affordable sources of credit and other banking services that are essential to MSE [medium and small enterprises] growth. Small business growth is critical to Central Asia's economic development."

More than 500 million poor people around the world run profitable micro enterprises and often cite credit as the primary constraint to business growth. In the poorest countries, these activities constitute the private sector-generating jobs and resources for services crucial to poverty reduction, especially for women.

The government of Japan has also committed US $140,000 for small projects in Uzbekistan. Grant documents were signed this week with the aim to setting up social welfare projects for women and schools.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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