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Uzbek President Karimov (file photo) 19 November 2004 -- Turkmen President Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, signed a declaration of friendship today at talks in the Uzbek city of Bukhara.

It is the first trip outside of Turkmenistan for Niyazov since an alleged assassination attempt against him in 2002.

The two leaders said they have similar positions on bilateral issues and they pledged to share water, boost trade, and ease travel restrictions.

"Any of our Uzbek friends or Turkmens living on the [Turkmen-Uzbek] border can sleep peacefully without worrying about tomorrow," Niyazov said. "We will not allow any misunderstandings in the future. Two neighbors are happy when there are no problems, when there are no arguments about territory, or water, or any other problem, when there is only the issue of mutually beneficial cooperation."

Karimov said: "A new agreement will be signed [between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan] which will determine the concrete conditions of the operations of shopping facilities, shopping centers, offering goods both of Turkmen and Uzbek origin."

Niyazov said the two sides agreed to form a working group to enforce a 1996 agreement on sharing the water resources of the Amu Darya River. Niyazov also said residents of border regions will be given greater rights to travel between the two countries to visit relatives.

Today's summit was the first time the two leaders had met in four years. Relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan suffered after Turkmenistan alleged Uzbek involvement in the 2002 assassination attempt on Niyazov. Uzbekistan denied any link to the incident.

(AP)
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