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The United States on Wednesday lauded Central Asian countries for supporting its global anti-terrorism campaign. "Central Asia, which for years had suffered from Afghanistan-based extremism, saw no significant terrorist activity in 2002," the State Department said in its annual Patterns of Global Terrorism Report.

The survey noted that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which seeks to overthrow the Uzbek government, was severely disrupted when some of its leaders were killed fighting on the side of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Kazakhstan continued to be "outspoken and supportive" in the fight, while the Kyrgyz had repeatedly demonstrated "strong support for the war against terrorism", the assessment said.

The plaudits were delivered despite concerns in some sectors of the US government over the human rights record of some of the states, and accusations by activists that Central Asian nations are getting an easy ride from Washington on the issue because of their support for the US anti-terror drive. Kazakhstan, for instance, has been frequently warned by the State Department over its suppression of media freedoms.

Despite the praise from Washington, this was not reciprocated in some of the region's countries. On Thursday, 200 Kyrgyz used the occasion of May Day to demonstrate against the presence of a US military base in their country, many of them also calling for the re-establishment of the Soviet Union.

The annual May Day rally was held by a statue of Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, in the capital, Bishkek. This mountainous republic of some 4.9 million people has hosted US troops at Manas airbase, near Bishkek, since the country was used as a staging post for US-led military operations in Afghanistan in 2001.

But the government of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has trodden a fine line between support for the US and deference to its former Soviet master, Moscow, which also has troops based in Kyrgyzstan. The government opposed the recent US-led invasion of Iraq and ruled out the use of Manas for that purpose. In an uncharacteristically liberal move, it also tolerated an anti-Iraq war protest in March by some 1,500 people.

The Kyrgyz foreign ministry issued an appeal on Tuesday for international assistance in dealing with the aftermath of a landslide that killed 38 people, and towards preventing similar disasters, which could spread pollution from radioactive dumps, AP reported. The 20 April landslide in the village of Kara-Taryk was not near any radioactive waste sites, but Kyrgyzstan has several uranium dumps inherited from the Soviet Union located in landslide-prone areas.

The ministry also said the government lacked medicine, fuel, food, construction materials, and human resources to solve the problems arising from the landslide in Kara-Taryk. The US embassy in Bishkek announced on Tuesday that the USAID would give US $50,000 to NGOs already working in the area towards providing people affected by the landslide with necessary support.

Three Central Asian states, along with three other former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States, agreed on Monday to deploy a fully equipped rapid-reaction force with combat aircraft in Central Asia. The new force's fighter planes would operate from the Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan from July.

The leaders of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan met in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, for talks on boosting collective security agreements made in 1992. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the key task of the force was to counter drug smuggling and terrorism in the volatile region between his country, China and Afghanistan. Putin said a day earlier that Russia would correspondingly reinforce its current 10,000-man force guarding Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan.

A new independent radio station known as Vatan (Homeland), begun experimental broadcasting on the 106 FM frequency this week in Dushanbe. The management of Vatan told local media that the new channel was informational, entertaining, cultural and educational, and would broadcast 24 hours a day to Dushanbe and nearby districts.

The British government has allocated $420,000 to projects on reforming the penitentiary systems in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the Interfax news agency reported, quoting a press release. The release, which was circulated on Wednesday by the British embassy in Kazakhstan and the office of Penal Reform International in Central Asia, said the money had been committed by the British government's Human Rights Fund.

"The Kazakh project will maintain public participation in monitoring penitentiary facilities and will be a certain contribution to the openness and transparency of the penitentiary system. The project will further the enhancing of the role of local NGOs in monitoring prisons," the press release says. Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz project will further the introduction of amendments to legislation aimed at expanding types of punishment alternative to imprisonment.

The Tajik parliament's lower house, the Assembly of Representatives, had ratified an international convention banning antipersonnel mines, the Tajik news agency Asia-Plus reported on Wednesday. "The convention was ratified unanimously," it said. The 1997 Ottawa Convention, which bans the use, storage, production and transportation of antipersonnel mines, and which provides for their destruction, had been ratified by over 130 countries, the parliamentary session mentioned.

"Tajikistan has worked out a special programme aimed at implementing these provisions, and some 13m dollars is needed for it to be carried out," the agency quoted the Tajik president's plenipotentiary at parliament, Shermuhammad Shoyev, as saying. According to Tajik sources, more than 60 Tajiks have been killed and about the same number injured since the Uzbek side started mining mine the Tajik-Uzbek border.

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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