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Uzbekistan Joins Eurasian Economic Community

EES leaders at Konstantinovsky Palace outside St. Petersburg on 25 January (epa) 25 January 2006 -- Uzbekistan today became the sixth member of the Eurasian Economic Community (EES) at a summit in St. Petersburg of that Russian-led grouping.

The EES is one of a number of overlapping regional blocs formed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In addition to Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan -- which along with Ukraine are members of the so-called Common Economic Space -- the EES brings together Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and now Uzbekistan.

Summit participants were expected to discuss plans to merge the EES with another regional forum, the Central Asian Cooperation Organization, which is made of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

Addressing today's summit, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said the merger of the two organizations would boost regional integration processes.

The West has strongly criticized Karimov's government in the wake of a bloody crackdown against a May demonstration in the eastern city of Andijon. Uzbekistan has since curtailed its military cooperation with the United States and seemingly sought to enhance ties with Moscow.