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Iranian President Mohammad Khatami concluded his official Afghan visit this week reiterating his country's resolve to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

"I would like to point out that no other country is as much interested in Afghanistan's stability and security as the Islamic Republic of Iran," Khatami told reporters on his arrival at Mehrabad airport in Iran.

He said Iran and Afghanistan had agreed to facilitate exports and imports, for which Tehran would issue several concessions to exporters. He also expressed his country's willingness to build roads and railway lines in Afghanistan.

The two countries also discussed the issue of narcotics and the provision of water to Iran from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has agreed to lend more than US $300 million to Kazakhstan for seven projects. Water and forestry management, the environment and rural development will be the major spheres of the bank's credit to the Central Asian country.

According to the World Bank, it has so far given Kazakhstan 22 loans totalling US $1.88 billion. Kazakhstan is still to use US $320 million of this money.

The World Bank has also signed a credit agreement with another Central Asian country, Tajikistan, for a poverty alleviation project. The project will give grants to 440 communities and micro-finance services, and will support the capacity building of social welfare organisations.

Tajikistan has also received financial and technical help from the United States to set up six new meteorological stations.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide Tajikistan with several sets of modern equipment for their meteorological stations as part of a regional project to improve water resources management in Central Asia. Each set of equipment costs US $20,000.

The United States State Department is sending a delegation to neighbouring Uzbekistan later this month. Led by the department's coordinator for US assistance to Europe and Eurasia, William Taylor, the delegation will deliver medical equipment worth US $15 million to military hospitals and hospitals in remote areas of the country's eastern Fergana Valley.

Uzbekistan will also receive solar power stations from Austria. The cooperation plan on solar energy technologies with an Austrian company is designed for five years, with a demonstration project to be launched in 2003.

The plan also envisages the creation of a joint venture for the manufacture of solar energy equipment under the Austrian licence. Uzbek experts will undergo training on solar energy systems production techniques. The production process is set to start in 2004-2006.

The US has also provided Uzbekistan with special cameras on the borders that take mug shots of every passing vehicle and record their radiation emissions. The purpose is to curb the smuggling of nuclear material. Uzbekistan has stepped up security after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central Asia has been an easy region to acquire and smuggle nuclear materials. There have been 181 recorded cases of the movement of nuclear materials from 1993 until the end of last year, according to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, the newspaper said.

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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