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Central Asia: Economic Summit Calls for Closer Cooperation

Ashagabat, 14 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) ended a two-day summit in Ashgabat today with a call for closer cooperation among the 10 Central Asian member states.

ECO said it would consider Turkmenistan's proposals to construct five pipelines for export of natural gas from Turkmenistan to world markets. Iranian, Turkish and Turkmen leaders also signed a memorandum to export up to 30 billion (30 thousand million) cubic metres of natural gas a year from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran.

Few details were known on financing of the projects and when the gas might begin to flow.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov told the summit that the war in Afghanistan is blocking the Central Asian countries' access to international markets. He accused Pakistan of prolonging the war by aiding the fundamentalist Taliban militia.

The Taliban were absent at the summit, which was attended by ousted Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

ECO is aimed at promoting regional cooperation. It groups Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.