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The US State Department said on Monday that Turkmenistan had been granted a waiver under the Jackson-Vanik Amendment after President George W. Bush waived trade curbs pending under a US law. State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said the waiver would encourage the Turkmen government to move forward expeditiously to remove the exit regime and its selective application. The Amendment effectively bars access to official credit and credit guarantee programmes to countries that restrict emigration. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov reportedly said on Thursday that he might step down by the end of the decade. He told the People's Council he was ready to leave his post by 2010 when he turned 70, the age limit for a holder of the presidency. "The destiny of the nation should not all the time depend on one single person," he reportedly told a gathering of 2,500 parliamentary deputies, government officials and elders in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi, adding that an election could be held in 2007. It was reported on Monday that the Tajik prosecutor-general's office had opened a criminal case against Soghdkhorijakor (Soghd foreign labour), a firm engaged in sending migrant workers abroad. According to the law-enforcement agency, over 300 Tajik labour migrants sent to Russia in June had no proper permits or official invitations from employers. After two weeks of harassment, they were deported back home under a court ruling. Tajikistan's law-enforcement agencies this week stepped up security measures to avert possible acts of terrorism during an international forum on fresh water to be held in the capital, Dushanbe, from 30 August to 1 September, while their counterparts in Kyrgyzstan are expected to assist them. The forum is said to be the most important conference ever to be held in Tajikistan as the number of participants could reach 2,000, representatives of 36 countries and 40 international organisations and NGOs having expressed interest in participating. On Thursday, Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov and the World Bank's permanent representative, Cevdet Denizer, met in Dushanbe to discuss implementation of the country's economic transformation programmes. The main topic discussed was that of the conditions attached to the allocation of the second tranche of a credit under the World Bank's credit assistance programme on reconstructing Tajikistan's strategically important facilities. Also touched upon was the provision by the World Bank of a second tranche of credit towards reducing the debts of municipal services. The US Embassy in Dushanbe said on Thursday that the largest single US assistance project for Tajikistan, worth some US $27 million, would begin with the arrival of an airlift of medicine on 20 August. The airlift is part of Operation Provide Hope, a humanitarian medical programme sponsored by the US Department of State, and represents a special coordination effort by the US government, military and public and private sectors, according to a US embassy press release. In Uzbekistan, some local media reported that over 400 workers at the Ferghana oil refinery, which is one of the country's most important enterprises, had staged a protest on Monday, demanding unpaid dues. According to an unconfirmed report, also on Monday, workers at the Ferghana chemical plant manufacturing furan compounds, a major enterprise of the Uzbek hydrolytic industry, also staged a protest against the suspension of the factory's operations for major repairs. The workers reportedly said the move would lead to unemployment, and demanded their dues. Ruslan Sharipov, an Uzbek openly gay journalist, was on Wednesday sentenced to five and a half years' imprisonment by a Tashkent court after finding him guilty of sodomy and having sexual relations with minors. Matilda Bogner, the office director for Human Rights Watch in Uzbekistan, expressed concern over the issue. "I view this trial as just being a way of stopping him from continuing his human rights and journalistic activities," she said. Meanwhile, in another case Uzbek authorities reportedly upheld a death sentence passed on Iskandar Khudoyberganov, 29, at the end of 2002 after he confessed to being a member of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Earlier, during a visit to Tashkent in July, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the chairman of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), had asked Uzbek President Islam Karimov to halt executions. In Kazakhstan, the health ministry had denied a report that cholera had been verified in a patient from of the village of Orlik in the western Atyrau region, Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency reported on Tuesday, quoting Baurzhan Bayserkin, a ministry official. Representatives of Kazakh NGOs said on Tuesday that they were expecting the Civic Forum in the capital, Astana, in September to strengthen cooperation between the civil society and government bodies. Some 2,500 NGOs have been registered in the country, but only about 1,000 of them seem to be actively operating - mainly on issues affecting the environment, human rights and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. The OSCE said on Wednesday it would not send observers to the elections of maslikhats, or local government bodies, in Kazakhstan. "This time, the OSCE does not intend to send its observers to Kazakhstan," Anton Rupnik, the head of the OSCE centre in Almaty, said, explaining that the organisation had received no request to do so from the Kazakh leadership. Still in Kazakhstan, it was reported on Wednesday that Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, an opposition leader jailed on corruption charges, had requested a presidential pardon. Yelena Rebenchuk, his lawyer, said the same day that he had written such a request to President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Zhakiyanov, the leader of the Democratic Choice Party, was sentenced in August 2002 to seven years in prison for abuse of power during his time as governor of the northern Pavlodar Region. Meanwhile, communists in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday protested against the government's decision to remove Vladimir Iliac Lenin's statue from the capital's main square. On Monday, the government ordered its transfer from Wishek's Ala Too (Majestic Mountain) square to a spot in front of the parliament building, 200 meters away. Members of the Communist Party of Kyrgyz Stan criticized the decision, saying they would urge President Asker Okayed and the Kyrgyz parliament to reverse it, but some local NGOs welcomed the move.

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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