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Central Asian Countries Seek To Demine Border Areas

DUSHANBE -- A Tajik Foreign Ministry official says the borders between Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan should be demined as soon as possible, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Davlat Nazriev said on November 18 in Dushanbe at an international conference on demining borders in the Ferghana region that dozens of civilians but no terrorists have been killed by mines along the borders in the last decade.

Ivar Viki of the OSCE's office in Dushanbe said that demining work on the borders will be successful only through the active involvement of the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik sides.

Meanwhile, Uzbek Ambassador to Tajikistan Shoislom Shoqosimov told journalists on November 17 that Uzbekistan would not carry out any demining along the Uzbek-Afghan border until stability is established in Afghanistan.

He said Tashkent created the minefields along the borders "to prevent illegal border-crossing by terrorists and drug smugglers."

Uzbek authorities mined its borders with neighboring Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in 2000 after armed members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) entered Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan from Afghanistan in an effort to reach Uzbekistan.

More than 70 Tajiks have been killed and about 80 injured by the mines since then.

Additionally, some Soviet-era mine fields along the Tajik-Afghan border and those left since the Tajik civil war in 1992-1997 have never been demined.

The OSCE has spent more than 5 million euros ($7.5 million) for demining projects in Tajikistan in the last six years.