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Weekly News Wrap

This week saw significant developments in the demarcation of borders between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. On Thursday, a joint commission headed by the two prime ministers, Oqil Oqilov and Otkir Sultanov, agreed in the northern Tajik city of Khujund on demarcating borders along Tajikistan’s northern Soghod region.

In a separate move, Turkmen president Saparmurat Nayazov announced on Tuesday that his country would build barbed wire fences on its northern borders with neighbouring Uzbekistan along the Dasguz region.

Uzbekistan announced that it would receive a total of US $900 million in foreign investment this year, which was expected to improve healthcare, employment and education. The country last year received some US $393 million in foreign investment.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission maintained that while the country had made progress in reforming its Soviet-style economy, it failed to materialise a plan to liberalise its foreign currency regime.

Uzbekistan introduced tight restrictions on the convertibility of its national currency, the som, in 1996, which led to the existence of three official and two black market exchange rates. Frustration over the country’s failure to introduce a unified exchange rate system and failure to reform its economy led the IMF to suspend loans in 1996 and significantly reduce its presence last year.

This week the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, played host to the fourth Central Asian media conference. With journalists, experts, political party representatives and NGOs from all of the former Soviet republics attending, the two-day event was expected to take up issues affecting press freedom in the region.

The conference organised by the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media, in cooperation with the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) centre in Tashkent and Open Society Institute, had a difficult task at hand in addressing issues such as the influence of September 11 on media development, religious freedom, media corruption and draconian press laws.

Following mounting criticism of Washington's assistance to authoritarian Central Asian regimes, the US president George Bush and Secretary of State Collin Powel urged the visiting Kyrgyz President, Askar Akayev, on Monday to pace up democratic reforms in his country.

The development follows a letter by the New-York based global human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, urging the White House to address what it described as Kygryzstan's dramatically worsening human rights record - a country once heralded as an island of democracy in a highly repressive region.

Meanwhile, Tajikistan and the UN agreed on increasing cooperation on environmental issues. The areas of cooperation would include energy generation and environmental protection. The two sides also discussed the holding of an international forum next year on fresh water issues and its use in the Aral Sea basin.

In a parallel development, a two-day international seminar on water resources in Central Asia concluded in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital Almaty. The delegates advocated more active cooperation of scientists and politicians while making decisions on water resources.

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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