Russia, Uzbekistan To Sign Security Documents
12:16 a.m. Oct 12, 1998 Eastern
By Dmitry Solovyov
TASHKENT (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov, worried by a possible advent of militant Islam from Afghanistan, on Monday will sign documents on joint action if their security is threatened.
Yeltsin's spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin told a news briefing in the Uzbek capital after the ailing president arrived Sunday that the documents would include a Russian-Uzbek declaration on the situation in Afghanistan.
``This declaration is being adopted due to serious concerns about the situation in Afghanistan and possible negative consequences for the Central Asian states and Russia that may be caused by the escalation of armed actions inside Afghanistan.''
Yeltsin's two-day visit to Uzbekistan was initially overshadowed by the 67-year-old Russian leader's poor appearance on arrival. His face was pale and gait unsteady. But aides said he was suffering only from a cold and cough.
Russia and Uzbekistan, a Moslem nation of 24 million people in Central Asia that borders on Afghanistan, are concerned about possible influence of the purist Taleban militia and a massive influx of cheap arms and narcotics from the war-ravaged country.
Earlier this year Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan formed a ``troika'' to fight Islamist fundamentalism together.
Yakushkin said the declaration on multilateral cooperation between Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan would be a second political document signed.
He said that in line with the declaration, the three states would develop their cooperation in security and defense and in protecting their borders.
Russia already keeps more than 20,000 troops in Tajikistan, an impoverished state of 5.7 million scarred by years of civil war. But warlords and drug traders operating out of bases in adjacent Afghanistan often disturb the fragile peace.
Moscow officials have often referred to formerly Soviet Central Asia as the soft underbelly of Russia which might become vulnerable to religious extremism from Afghanistan.
The two political documents, signed along with economic treaties, would complete Yeltsin's two-day official visit to Uzbekistan.
Regarding Yeltsin's health, Yakushkin said the Russian leader -- who is to visit nearby oil-rich Kazakhstan later Monday and Tuesday -- only had a cold and cough worsened by a busy week and a long flight to the Uzbek capital from Moscow.
He said that despite cutting short the welcoming ceremony at Karimov's mansion Sunday, Yeltsin had full-fledged negotiations with his presidential counterpart that had lasted more than 40 minutes.
The spokesman said, however, that there might be some changes to the planned schedule Monday.
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