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Iran Threatens Uzbekistan Over Tajik Rail Problems

DUSHANBE -- Iran's state rail company has warned Uzbekistan that it will halt the movement of all Uzbek trains across Iran unless Uzbekistan permits the unrestricted transit of freight bound for Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Iranian railroad official Behruz Balandi told RFE/RL the company sent a letter to the Uzbek state rail company asking it to expedite the passage of hundreds of Tajik freight cars that have been held up for months in Uzbekistan.

Balandi said that after three weeks of negotiations the Uzbek side has finally softened its position and promised to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Iran had already informed Turkmenistan that starting June 10 it will not allow trains from Turkmenistan to transit Iran on their way to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan reportedly sends at some 150 freight cars -- many loaded with cotton fiber -- across Iran every day.

Uzbekistan's halting of freight cars bound for Tajikistan has affected construction of the Sangtuda-2 hydroelectric power plant that Iran is financing and building in southern Tajikistan.

Uzbekistan opposes the construction of the power plant because it says the dam at the plant will reduce the amount of water that flows into Uzbekistan.