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Uzbek, Kazakh Leaders Cover Broad Ground

September 4, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev hosted his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, today for a wide-ranging discussion of military, trade, and environmental issues, RFE/RL's Kazakh and Uzbek services report.

Speaking after the meeting, Nazarbaev announced that their countries will hold joint military exercises in the near future.

"We agreed to hold a joint staff exercise of our military forces and to exchange experience and cooperate in the military-technical sphere," Nazarbaev said.

Both are members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a five-year-old organization that has expanded on its predecessor's modest charter to help secure regional borders.

Nazarbaev predicted a doubling in bilateral trade after today's meeting and said Kazakhstan was "ready" for economic and political cooperation with Uzbekistan "to the benefit of the people."

Nazarbaev said bilateral trade would soar to $1 billion in the coming years, compared with $497 in 2005.

Nazarbaev also suggested that Siberian rivers could be diverted to meet the region's water needs. He claimed such a move would have no negative impact on the environment as it would affect "only 8 percent of Siberian rivers."

Nazarbaev and Karimov signed several documents during their meeting, including agreements on the protection of classified information, on cooperation in aircraft flight safety, and on tourism.

The two leaders also inked a program on economic cooperation for 2006-08 and a protocol to an agreement on Kazakh-Uzbek border checkpoints.

(with additional reporting by Kazinform and