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Tajik Talks Opens in Turkmenistan

Ashgabat, July 8 (RFE/RL) -- A new round of talks on the Tajikistan conflict has opened in the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat.

Introductory remarks were made by UN special envoy Gerd Merrem, by the head of the government delegation Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov, and by the head of the opposition delegation Akbar Turajonzade.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Ashgabat for the talks reports Merrem asked each side to submit, in writing, concrete positions on resolving the conflict.

The sides responded that their position papers are ready, but they indicated no major changes in positions from previous talks. Russia's Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was not present but is expected later today in Ashgabat.

The talks are scheduled to continue tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a top Tajikistan's First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Sherbatov was quoted by Itar Tass as saying in Dushanbe that he favors a complete ceasefire with opposition fighters during the peace talks. No immediate response to his statement by opposition leaders has been reported.