In Central Asia this week, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan traded accusations as hundreds of people were arrested following an alleged assassination attempt on Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov last month. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov on Thursday denied to the media that his country had helped an alleged mastermind of the assassination bid.
This followed remarks on Wednesday by the Turkmen prosecutor-general, Kurbanbibi Atazhanova, claiming that suspects held in connection with the murder attempt had said [Boris] Shikhmuradov, a former Turkmen foreign minister and one of four exiled opposition figures named by the Turkmen authorities for organising the attack, had illegally crossed into Turkmenistan from Uzbekistan the day before the president’s motorcade came under fire on 25 November in the capital, Ashgabat. “Uzbek authorities have nothing to do with and, moreover, never assisted Shikhmuradov to cross the border,” Komilov told journalists.
AFP reported that the EU and the United States had urged the pan-European Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to investigate alleged human rights violations in a crackdown following the assassination bid on Niyazov. Human Rights groups had earlier raised concerns over a possible crackdown and new round of domestic repression.
The operation and efficiency of Central Asia’s power-transmission system is expected to improve after the approval of a US $90 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on Tuesday. The Central Asia power system, comprising 83 power plants and 25,000 MW capacity, connects southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with high-voltage transmission links.
This regional power-transmission modernisation project would promote energy trade and cooperation among the former Soviet republics. Since the break-up of Soviet Union in 1991, power trade had fallen by 80 percent as each country focused on achieving power self-sufficiency, sometimes by using expensive fossil fuels rather than importing surplus power from neighbours.
In a related development, ADB approved a $35 million loan for Tajikistan, aimed at reducing poverty levels by half in three rural areas of the impoverished republic of 6.2 million people. The initiative will include projects for rehabilitating irrigation and water resources in the eastern Khatlon and Sughd regions. Some 88 percent of the estimated 470,000 people living in the regions live below the poverty line.
Also in Tajikistan, the Japanese government and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) signed an agreement on Monday in the capital, Dushanbe, on supporting children. Under the accord, the government of Japan will grant Tajikistan $1.3 million towards combating preventable diseases through immunisation and supporting safer maternity.
Meanwhile, in an apparent anti-corruption drive in Kazakhstan, the trial of a former transport and communication minister, Albay Myrzakhmetov, began at the Supreme Court in the capital, Astana. Myrzakhmetov and nine other officials of the Kazakh railways were accused of financial irregularities during his tenure between 1997 and 2000.
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