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SCO Says Activities Not Aimed Against Third Country --> Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan (center) at today's meeting (AFP) June 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization say the regional grouping's activities are not directed against any third countries.

Russian and Chinese Defense Ministers Anatoly Serdyukov and Cao Gangchuan made the comment today at a meeting of SCO defense ministers in Bishkek.

"We do not consider the SCO to be a bloc opposing someone. This is an organization created with a completely different task -- to combat terrorism and nothing else," Serdyukov said.

Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Khayrulloev, for his part, addressed the situation in Afghanistan, which he said was becoming more and more complicated.

He said any lull in fighting was only because of the harvest -- a reference to the opium poppies widely grown in Afghanistan -- and that he expected militants from Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to renew activities from July.

The SCO also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Today's meeting was held ahead of an SCO summit to be held in Bishkek in August. The same month, member states are to hold joint anti terror exercises in Russia's Chelyabinsk region.

(with AKIpress, Interfax, ITAR-TASS)

China In Central Asia
The Almaty,Kazakhstan, office of China's National Petroleum Corporation (RFE/RL)

BEIJING ON THE RISE: The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States prompted Washington to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. At the time, many predicted the United States would gain a new foothold in Central Asia: new U.S. military bases appeared in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, U.S. foreign aid increased, and much U.S. attention was lavished on the region. Russia and China looked on warily. But the pendulum may be swinging back in Moscow’s and Beijing’s favor. China, especially, has expended great effort at winning friends in Central Asia and is becoming a force to be reckoned with....(more)


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