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Weekly news wrap

An earthquake with a magnitude of four on the Richter scale hit Kazakhstan on Saturday, but no casualties or major damage were reported. Its epicentre was some 430 km north of the nation's commercial capital, Almaty, and 25 km east of Lake Balkhash. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have set up a special working group to deal with the demarcation of their common border. The parties began negotiations on Wednesday in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent which were set to end on Sunday. Kayrat Abuseitov, the Kazakh senior deputy foreign minister, told local journalists earlier that the demarcation was necessary, particularly near settlements where the border often ran literally through the gardens of homes. Meanwhile, in the northern Kazakh city of Pavlodar, the third HIV/AIDS death since the beginning of the year had been registered, the Kazakhstan Today news agency reported on Wednesday. A 61-year-old man, a former convict, was taken to the TB hospital, where he died because his body was wasted as a result of HIV/AIDS. The agency said 767 HIV-positive people had been registered in Pavlodar Region alone, of whom 63 were registered in the first six months of the year. Also on Wednesday, the first stage of the Interaction-2003 anti-terrorism exercises of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states started at an air force base in southern Kazakhstan in an effort geared to strengthen the military security of SCO member states. More than 1,000 soldiers from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan participated. It was reported on Thursday that the EC had allocated US $4 million for Semipalatinsk in eastern Kazakhstan, which is suffering from radiation emanating from a former nuclear-testing site in the area. "Following three hearings on the problems of the Semipalatinsk area at the European Parliament, the European Commission has decided to allocate US $4 million in special aid for the area," the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency quoted Lord Struan Stevenson, the leader of a European Parliament delegation visiting the country, as saying in Semipalatinsk. In Kyrgyzstan, it was reported that an agreement on the establishment of a Russian-led military base had been reached. The Kyrgyz defence ministry and Moscow had approved a bilateral draft agreement on the status of the air base and conditions of deployment. The base, to be constructed in the Kyrgyz town of Kant, 20 km east of the capital, Bishkek, will be established under the Collective Security Treaty, to which Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are party. It will accommodate part of a regional rapid deployment force. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) signed a police assistance agreement with Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, but local human rights groups strongly criticised a section of the deal concerning the provision of technical assistance, asserting that it would help authorities to suppress public gatherings. The OSCE programme aimed to establish community policing, improve the quality of criminal investigations and strengthen the emergency response capacity of the police force, the organisation said in a statement. Two women were detained at the airport in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, while trying to traffic two underage girls (14 and 15 years old) from the country to the United Arab Emirates, using forged passports, the Tajik Asia-Plus news agency reported on Monday. The suspects had reportedly managed to traffic 10 Tajik women since the beginning of the year. Under Tajik law, the two could be sentenced to between eight and 15 years imprisonment if found guilty. Also on Tuesday, an EU mission arrived in Tajikistan to work out technical aspects of financing a poverty-alleviation programme for the southern Khatlon Region, where the poverty rate is one of the worst in the country. The mission visited the region and also met heads of ministries and departments during their stay. The mission has already met Health Minister Nusratullo Fayzulloev and discussed providing the region with medical aid. Joint Russian-Tajik command and staff exercises involving over 500 servicemen from Tajikistan and Russia ended at the Sumbula range in Khatlon Region on Tuesday. The exercises rehearsed collaboration between subunits of the Tajik armed forces and the Russian 201st motorised rifle division in the event of hostile armed formations crossing into Tajikistan from Afghanistan, Zarobiddin Sirjoev, the head of the Tajik defence ministry reportedly said. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived on Wednesday in Uzbekistan on his first visit since the country became a key US ally in the war on terror. The visit is part of Moscow's campaign to reassert its influence in the region. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan has done much to distance itself from Russia, and shown an increased willingness to cooperate with the Washington. Avdy Kuliev, who was foreign minister of Turkmenistan from 1990 to 1992, was severely beaten near his Himki (Moscow suburb) home on Wednesday. He fled a decade ago and founded a movement opposing the country's leader, Saparmurat Niyazov. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said in a statement on Thursday that he had been attacked at the instigation of Turkmen agents.

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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