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Uzbeks 'Ease' Freight Holdup At Center Of Row With Tajikistan

The delayed railroad cars are carrying materials for the Talco aluminum plant.
The delayed railroad cars are carrying materials for the Talco aluminum plant.
DUSHANBE -- Some of an estimated 1,000 freight cars held up for several weeks on Uzbek territory have now arrived in Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Tajik railway officials said around 150 of the railcars were now in the country, but the Foreign Ministry said hundreds more were still being held up on Uzbek territory.

Officials said previously that the freight cars contain raw materials for Tajikistan's Talco aluminum plant, construction equipment for the country's Roghun hydropower station, fuel, and some nonmilitary cargo for international forces in Afghanistan.

The hold-up has caused a dispute between the neighboring countries, with Tajikistan accusing Uzbekistan of intentionally blocking the freight transiting through its territory.

Uzbekistan has blamed technical problems, along with bad weather and an increase in freight traffic.

On this last point, the Uzbek Embassy in Dushanbe said on March 26 that Uzbekistan was fulfilling "its obligations under international agreements on ensuring the passage of nonmilitary and humanitarian goods to Afghanistan."

Relations have cooled between the two neighbors in recent months over
Tajikistan's plans to complete the construction of its key Roghun power plant despite Tashkent's objections.

Uzbekistan says the Roghun plant will leave it facing water shortages.

Tajik plans to expand the Talco plant, near the Uzbek border, have also prompted some anxiety in Uzbekistan.

On March 25, around 1,000 students and university professors in the southern Uzbek town of Termez protested the planned expansion, saying industrial waste from the plant had caused health and environmental problems.

Tajik authorities have previously denied such accusations.