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President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
June 23, 2006 -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka today acknowledged that the process of setting up a customs union and integrating the economies of six former Soviet republics "is not moving as quickly as it was supposed to."
Speaking at the end of the summit of the Eurasian Economic Community, Lukashenka said the six countries that make up the grouping -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, as well as Belarus -- talked about the lack of progress "frankly and at length."
Lukashenka said he hoped preparations for a customs union would be completed this year, ready for signing "in the first half of next year."
The countries also discussed closer defense ties within their Collective Security Treaty Organization. Uzbekistan announced its decision to rejoin the organization, which it left in 1999.