Central Asian Gov'ts Issue Statement
By LIDA ISAMOVA
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) - The presidents of Russia, China and three Central Asian countries pledged Wednesday to fight terrorism, drug trafficking and separatism - and showed a common defensiveness about their human rights' records.
In a joint statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the other leaders expressed concerns about Islamic separatist movements in the mountain areas of Central Asia and agreed to set up a joint anti-terrorist center in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
It was the first meeting between Putin and Jiang since Putin was elected president March 26. The two reiterated opposition to the U.S. plan to deploy a limited national missile defense system, and they confirmed support for Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya and Beijing's push for reunification with Taiwan.
The joint statement by the five presidents also said the signatories opposed ``intervention into the internal affairs of other states, including under the pretext of 'humanitarian intervention' and 'human rights protection.'''
The statements were apparent references to the U.S. campaign in Kosovo last year, which Russia and China strongly opposed, and Western criticism of the countries' human rights records.
Analysts said the summit also highlighted Russia's and China's efforts to limit U.S. influence in Central Asia, an area controlled by Russia since the middle of the last century but with historic trade links to China.
The summit group is known as the Shanghai Five for the site of its first meeting in 1996.
Past meetings helped resolve a decades-old border dispute between the former Soviet Union and China. Only the Tajik section of the former 4,200-mile border remains contested, said Mikhail Titarenko, head of the Institute of Far East Studies in Moscow.
Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Wednesday called the border, formerly bristling with weapons, ``a zone of trust.''
Affirming Russia's role, Putin said Wednesday that Russia should establish a permanent military base in Tajikistan, where Russian troops are already stationed.
``We know for certain, and Tajikistan agrees, that without the presence of Russian troops, we will lose what we have succeeded in achieving, including the securing of peace for the population of Tajikistan,'' Putin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency during a separate meeting with Russian military officials.
Russian troops patrol Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan against frequent incursions by intruders, including smugglers ferrying drugs to Central Asia, Russia and western Europe.
The Tajik government fought a five-year civil war with Islamic rebels, ending with a 1997 peace deal. Russia maintains its soldiers are needed to keep this peace.
``Russia's departure would mean economic and social collapse in these countries,'' Titarenko said.
``It's strange that our American partners don't understand that we have vital interests in the region. (Americans) say you have interests there, but it's 10,000 miles away,'' he said.
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