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A US-supported anti-narcotics operation spanning Russia and four Central Asian nations, and involving coordination of 25,000 law enforcement officers, netted more than 4,700 mt of drugs in two days, local and international media reported.

The sweep, which started on 10 July, resulted in the arrest of hundreds of suspects. Last week the US government announced a grant of US $9.0 million to Tajikistan to fight drug-trafficking. It also provided 15 Russian-made military vehicles to help patrol Kazakhstan's borders and promised 14 more in the next two weeks.

In Tajikistan, an international forum on environment and water resource management, said this week that the dying Aral Sea required at least five cubic km of water each year it it was to recover from decades of draining for agricultural purposes.

"No further increase in land irrigation should be allowed, and the waters of the Syrdarya and Amudarya rivers which flow into the sea must be used rationally," regional expert, Gulakhmad Kholov, reportedly told participants of the International Fund for Aral Sea Recovery.

The meeting was attended by officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

International media reporting from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, said that a treaty declaring the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia a nuclear-free zone, was expected to be signed this year. The five Central Asian countries had agreed to create a nuclear-free zone at a summit in Kazakhstan in 1997.

Since the Soviet breakup in 1991, there have been widespread attempts to smuggle radioactive materials out of the impoverished Central Asian countries, which have been unable to ensure proper security for Sviet-era nuclear facilities.

Meanwhile, a typhoid outbreak has been reported in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. The city's health chief Nina Kravchenko, was reported as saying that one person had died and 276 were diagnosed with the disease. The outbreak is caused by contaminated food and water.

Health problems continue to be high on the agenda of international aid organisations and local authorities in all the Central Asian countries. In Kazakhstan a health survey in the commercial capital Almaty showed that 75 to 80 percent of children face at least one serious health condition.

Director of the Scientific Centre for Paediatrics and Child Surgery, Kuanysh Mazhibayev, told a news conference that medical examinations had established that one pupil in seven had diseases of the digestive organs. One in nine had diseases of the nervous system and one in 10 had diseases in the respiratory organs.

Realising the challenges posed by the health sector, the United States government, has provided Tajikistan with US $40 million to build hospitals.

Dushanbe will also receive a loan from Saudi Arabia on soft terms to construct a road, linking remote southern Tajikistan with the east of the country. The US $6.0 million loan has to be repaid in 25 years with a minimum interest rate of two percent.

Construction work on a bridge between Tajikistan and Afghanistan on the Pyundhz river also started this week. According to an agreement between the two countries, a total of five bridges will be built on the border river to facilitate transportation of goods and travelling.

In a similar spirit of bilateral cooperation, Turkmenistan has started exporting electricity to Iran. Under an agreement, Turkmenistan will provide 50 megawatts of electricity to Iran, through a 270 km power transmission line.

Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan, more than 7,000 foreigners have been checked for violating visa rules of the country, resulting in deportation of close to 4,000 people.

Also in Kazakhstan, there are increasing signs of repression of freedom of press. A journalist, Sergey Duvanov, was beaten up by three unidentified attackers. Duvanov, 49, is editor-in-chief of the magazine "Bulletin of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law". Almaty police have registered a case against the attackers.


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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