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Azerbaijan: World Leaders Arriving For Silk Road Conference

Baku, 7 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- World leaders have begun to arrive in Baku for tomorrow's Silk Road conference.

Our correspondent says Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Askayev was the first to arrive at Baku's airport, followed by Romanian President Emil Constantinescu.

Both were greeted by Azerbaijan's President, Heydar Aliyev. Observers say Aliyev is using the occasion to burnish his image as a statesman ahead of next month's presidential elections.

The purpose of the conference is to promote the so-called TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia) project, which takes its inspiration from the historic Silk Road.

The initiative aims to create an overland transportation corridor from the Pacific to Europe, offering an alternative to Russia's Trans-Siberian railroad or trans-oceanic shipping.

Delegations from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Turkey will be led by their respective presidents. But other strategic countries, including China, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Russia, are sending lower-level delegations.