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Weekly news wrap

In Central Asia this week a regional cooperation meeting of parliamentarians from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, all members of the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation (CACO), ended on Tuesday in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.

The forum agreed on a permanent body for inter-parliamentary collaboration. It underlined the need for joint efforts to combat drugs and religious fundamentalism as well as increasing mutual economic cooperation with European and other Asian countries.

In neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, international media reported that some 23 opposition activists were sentenced to several days in prison on Tuesday for allegedly disturbing the peace during an unsanctioned rally.

Over the past weekend, some 1,000 protestors gathered in the capital, Bishkek, demanding the resignation of President Askar Akayev. They also called for officials responsible for violence this past spring in the south of the country to be brought to justice and that an opposition candidate should be allowed to take part in regional elections.

In addition to the arrests, more than 100 protestors were also forced out of the capital. The tiny Central Asian nation has seen many anti-government protests in recent months, mostly in the impoverished south, since police allegedly killed five people at a rally last March.

Kyrgyz and US officials wrapped up two days of talks aimed at promoting economic growth and development in the former Soviet republic in Washington on Wednesday. The two sides looked at ways in which Washington could assist Kyrgyzstan in its poverty reduction programme through the development of small and medium scale businesses, micro credit schemes and tax, land and banking-sector reforms.

Following 11 September, the United States is extending cooperation to many Central Asian nations, to promote security and economic reforms primarily. In Uzbekistan, the visiting US Assistant Secretary for Commerce, William Lash, expressed hope that the country would go further in transforming its former command economy.

But he expressed dissatisfaction at high taxes, the compulsory sale of foreign currency incomes, difficulties in obtaining legal protection for foreign investments and government interference in the private sector. Since the start of this year, trade between the two countries has reached US $295 million involving more than 300 American enterprises.

The official Iranian news agency, IRNA reported that Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan had signed a memorandum of understanding on the development and reconstruction of transit roads. The agreement stressed the building of a road link from Dogharun on the Iranian Afghan border in western Afghanistan to the Sher Khan Bandar river port bordering Tajikistan in the northern Konduz province.

Tajikistan is also expected to strengthen cooperation with Russia to control the flow of drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan. Interior ministers of both countries signed an agreement last week to increase efforts against drug trafficking and terrorism. In terms of seizures of heroin, Tajikistan tops the global list. Dushanbe confiscated some three mt of heroin in the first nine months of this year. More than 25,000 Russian soldiers, tasked with guarding Tajik-Afghan border, are already stationed in the mountainous former Soviet republic.

Meanwhile, the German news agency DPA reported the angry reaction of Kazakhstan government officials to the suspension of construction on the biggest oil project by an international oil consortium, Tengizchevroil (TCO). The move may deprive the Kazak government of up to US $200 million a year in revenues. This US $3.5 billion expansion programme by TCO, which was expected to nearly double production at the north Caspian Tengiz oilfield in three years, ran into difficulties after a disagreement over funding between TCO partners ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil.

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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