Central Asia pleads for UN help in dealing with Afghanistan
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 8 (AFP) - Central Asian states on Friday continued urgent appeals for UN assistance in dealing with the export of terrorism and drugs from Afghanistan, with two of the former Soviet republics warning the perils they face from their neighbor are a global threat.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Muratbek Imanaliev, the foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan, kept up the push for concerted international efforts on Afghanistan that leaders of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan had begun at the start of the UN Millennium Summit on Wednesday.
"The continuing war in Afghanistan stands as a threat to security of not only the states of Central Asia, but is also a threat to the whole world," Karimov said in his address to the largest-ever gathering of world leaders.
He echoed the words of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov who told the UN summit on Thursday that Afghanistan "has been turned into a base of destabilization of neighboring and other states."
Karimov, reiterated comments expressed earlier by Rakhmonov and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, when he called Afghanistan a "training ground and hotbed of international terrorism and extremism and has become ... a warehouse of world drug production."
And Imanaliev, in his speech on Friday, said Kyrgyzstan would be willing to host a UN-sponsored peace conference in order to pursue the "radical improvement" of conditions in the war-shattered state, most of which is now run by the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban militia.
Central Asian countries, often referred to collectively as "the Stans," have been increasingly concerned about the rise in Muslim extremism since the Taliban seized control in Kabul two years ago, and its export into their majority Islamic, but secular, post-Soviet nations.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), one radical group believed to receive training and support from sources inside Afghanistan, has become particularly active in recent years, staging increasingly bold cross-border raids, most recently last month, from its remote mountain bases in Tajikistan.
Alarmed by these developments and by the growing threat from drug trafficking, the Central Asian republics have begun to cooperate in counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics ventures, supported in part by the United States and Russia.
Washington and Moscow -- which each blame Afghan-based Saudi militant Osama bin Laden for organizing terrorist attacks against them, the United States for the 1998 bombings of its embassies in East Africa and Russia for the separatist campaign in Chechnya -- also have competing interests over Central Asia's vast petroleum reserves.
Those dual and competing interests were made clear earlier this year when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the region less than a week after high-profile trips there by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and FBI director Louis Freeh.
At this week's UN summit, the Central Asian leaders paid scant attention to the question of oil, choosing instead to underscore in each of their addresses their hopes for an international solution to resolve the Afghan question.
"We believe it is necessary to convene a special meeting of the Security Council devoted to the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia to develop practical measures to stabilize the situation," Nazarbaev said on Wednesday.
There was no immediate indication from UN or other officials whether the appeals would be met.
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