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ECO Summit Concludes In Ashgabat

Ashgabat, May 15 (RFE/RL) - The fourth summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) has concluded with the hand over of the organization's chairmanship to Turkmenistan by Pakistan. The regional economic cooperation summit ended yesterday in Ashgabat.

The Presidents of the ten-member ECO: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan signed a declaration calling for an overhaul the organization. And documents signed at the summit generally dealt with strengthening stability in the region, boosting trade by promoting economic cooperation and improving communication links.

Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Nijazov told reporters, "Not only have we agreed on the priorities of the organization such as transport, communication and energy; but we also identified specific priority projects, notably the construction of a railroad-and-pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean Coast."

There were several multi-lateral documents signed during the summit; among them: a Pakistan-Turkmenistan agreement on international road traffic, a Turkmenistan-Iran-Kazakhstan memorandum on cooperation in construction of a rail line, and a memorandum on a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline.

Summit harmony was jeopardized as Uzbekistan threatened to withdraw from the ECO over Iran's criticism of the U.S., Israel and Lebanon; and Pakistan's criticizism of India. Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov said summit participants should concentrate on economic cooperation, not politics.

Afghanistan opposition leaders called on the ECO to suspend Afghanistan's President Burhanuddin Rabbani, saying his government is not representative of the Afghan people.