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Tajikistan Considers Railroad Link To Bypass Uzbekistan

Olim Boboev, Tajikistan's minister of transport

Olim Boboev, Tajikistan's minister of transport

DUSHANBE -- The Tajik government has suggested building a railroad link through Afghanistan to avoid the delays in rail cargo bound for Tajikistan via Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Tajik Transportation Minister Olim Boboev told RFE/RL that Tajikistan could build a 250-kilometer rail link connecting Tajikistan with Turkmenistan via northern Afghanistan, a route that would avoid Uzbekistan.

Tajikistan accused Uzbekistan last week of deliberately delaying the passage of more than 1,000 railroad cars laden with fuel, construction materials, and other goods bound for Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Uzbek Ambassador to Tajikistan Shoqosim Shoislamov rejected that accusation, saying the delays are "technical."

Over the past several days, some 150 freight cars were allowed across the border from Uzbekistan into Tajikistan. But Tajik officials say that some 984 other wagons with materiel are still being held up in Uzbekistan.

Shodi Shabdolov, the head of Tajikistan's Communist Party and a member of the lower house of parliament, said a railroad linking Tajikistan and Turkmenistan via Afghanistan is feasible and could be completed within a few months.

But Tajik economist Hojimuhammad Umarov said that freight transit via Uzbekistan will remain crucial even if alternative links via Afghanistan or China are built. He pointed out that Tajikistan cannot afford to build such a railroad in the next five or six years.

Umarov says Tajikistan should seek a compromise with Uzbekistan.

Relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent deteriorated after Tajikistan decided to raise funds within the country to complete the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in the town of Roghun.

Uzbekistan objects to that project, claiming that the planned 335-meter high dam will exacerbate the existing water shortages in the region in general, and for its own country in particular.