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Uzbekistan: News Roundup

Prague, 23 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- This roundup of news from Uzbekistan covers politics and the environment.

NATO Commander Hopes For Peaceful Afghan Solution

Chirchik, Uzbekistan -- NATO's supreme allied commander today called tension between Iran and Afghanistan a serious problem, but said he hoped a peaceful solution could be found.

Admiral Harold Gehman made the comment at the Chirchik military base near the Uzbek capital of Tashkent. Soldiers from six ex-Soviet republics, the United States and Turkey are there participating in a peacekeeping exercise.

Tensions between Iran and Taliban ruled Afghanistan have risen sharply over the deaths of Iranian diplomats during a recent Taliban offensive. In New York yesterday, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami expressed concern at the deaths of the diplomats but played down Iran's massing of military forces on the Afghan border, saying they were there for defensive purposes only.

Uzbek Defense Minister Khikmatulla Tursunov said the Afghan conflict threatens to "spiral out of control," threatening neighboring countries.

Environmental Disaster Major Cause Of Migration

Tashkent -- An official of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said today environmental disaster is a major cause of the migration of 270,000 central Asians since 1991 and could lead to armed conflict in the region.

Taslimur Rahman, the head of the UNHCR's Tashkent office, made the comment as a three-day conference on the region's environmental problems opened in Tashkent. Speaking at the conference organized by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Rahman said the ethnic diversity of the central Asian region coupled with mass migrations could lead to sporadic violence or conflict between neighboring countries.