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Tajikistan: Refugees To Start Returning Home

Termez, Uzbekistan; 22 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will start bringing home Tajik refugees from a camp in neighboring Afghanistan following an agreement reached at four-way talks in the Uzbek city of Termez yesterday.

The meeting was attended by Tajik Labor Minister Shukurdzhon Zukhurov, who is a leading member of his country's Reconciliation Commission, Uzbekistan's deputy foreign minister, an envoy of Afghan opposition leader General Rashid Dostum and delegates from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Tajik refugees, estimated to number some 7,000, have been living in the Sakhi refugee camp near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif for the past five years.

Our correspondent reports that participants at yesterday's meeting agreed to open the bridge linking Termez with neighboring Afghanistan three times a week. This will allow the Tajik refugees to cross into Uzbekistan on their way home to Tajikistan. The first batch of 300 refugees will make the trip this Friday.

A UNHCR told RFE/RL that the organization will cover expenses linked to the transport of the refugees, who will be brought to the Afghan-Uzbek border in trucks, then sent by rail to Tajikistan's Shartuz and Kabadian regions.