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SCO Ministers Discuss Economic, Energy Cooperation In Beijing

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (right) greets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a welcoming ceremony ahead of the SCO summit in Beijing.
(RFE/RL) -- At a meeting of prime ministers representing the six Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) states in Beijing, calls were made for more energy and economic cooperation.

But the Russian- and Chinese-dominated group, intended to serve as a mutual-security organization, did not publicly address growing security concerns in the region, the war in Afghanistan, or the international community's apprehension over Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The session assembling the prime ministers of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan resulted in calls for a coordinated response to the ongoing global economic crisis. The representatives of the four countries with SCO observer status -- India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan -- also attended the meeting.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said the Beijing meeting offered a "unique opportunity" for participants to exchange opinions and work out a specific plan.

"I believe that if all member states work hand in hand and deepen cooperation, we will certainly be able to create a glorious future of peace and prosperity for the region," Wen said.

There was no public mention of China's offer at the SCO's heads-of-state summit in Russia in June to provide $10 billion in credits to help Central Asian countries deal with the financial crisis.

The prime ministers signed a number of agreements on regional cooperation, including in the areas of trade, energy resources, agriculture, transport, culture, health care, and the environment. They also agreed to create a fund to further develop transportation and telecommunication links.

Meeting Sidelines

The sidelines of the gathering were expected to be teeming with activity. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was expected to meet one-on-one with the Iranian and Afghan vice presidents, and with the Kazakh prime minister.

Putin's planned meeting with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi was to come as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her diplomatic visit to Russia.

During a speech to students of Moscow State University on October 14, Clinton discussed the Obama administration's assessment of the nuclear threat posed by Iran, and the administration's changes to the Bush-era missile-shield proposal.

Yury Ushakov, deputy chief of staff of the Russian government, told journalists that Putin and Rahimi would discuss the Iranian nuclear program.

However, Ushakov added that "nothing new will be said" during the meeting. "Russia's position on the Iranian nuclear dossier is well-known in the world and it does not change," Ushakov said.

Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, have resisted Western pressure to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran.

As for Putin's meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov, Ushakov said the two sides are expected to discuss bilateral cooperation and a number of other issues, including avenues toward joining the World Trade Organization.

The SCO was initially founded as the Shanghai Five in 1996. It changed its name in 2001 after Uzbekistan joined the regional security group.

with agency reports