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Iran Ready To Set Up Joint TV Station With Tajikistan, Afghanistan

Asadullo Rahmonov, the head of Tajikistan's Committee on TV and Radio
Asadullo Rahmonov, the head of Tajikistan's Committee on TV and Radio
DUSHANBE -- Iran's ambassador to Tajikistan says he has the equipment needed to open the long-planned, joint Tajik-Afghan-Iranian television station if Tajik officials will allow it to be installed, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Iranian diplomat Ali Asghar Sherdust said the new station could begin broadcasting some three weeks after the equipment is set up in a Dushanbe office.

Sherdust said the station could be ready in time to cover a meeting of the Tajik, Afghan, and Iranian leaders scheduled for Dushanbe during the annual Norouz celebration on March 21.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon agreed to set up the TV station at a meeting in Dushanbe in July 2006. The three countries' people share cultural similarities and the majority of people in each country speak Persian.

But Afghanistan showed little interest in the Persian-language TV project, as Kabul has a much more vibrant media environment than the other two countries and also has two official languages. Afghanistan and Tajikistan were also concerned about the costs involved in establishing the station.

Asadullo Rahmonov, the head of Tajikistan's Committee on TV and Radio, told RFE/RL that Tajik officials would need at least two months to install the equipment and could not guarantee that the joint TV station could cover the Norouz meeting of the three leaders in Dushanbe.

Tajikistan analyst Rajabi Mirzo told RFE/RL today he has doubts that such a TV station could be successful because the three countries have such "absolutely different ideologies."

Tajik journalist Zafar Sufi said he agrees with Mirzo and added that Iranian officials would not be happy watching the types of songs and dances that are often shown on Tajik TV. He added that Tajik authorities who disallow some women from wearing the hijab would be unhappy seeing TV anchors wearing Islamic head scarves, as all Iranian and many Afghan women journalists do.

Tajikistan recently decreased its contacts with Muslim countries when it ordered hundreds of young Tajik men to return home from Islamic schools and universities abroad where they were studying, including many in Iran.

Tajik authorities also stopped Tajik teachers from visiting Iran and taking part in special courses for learning the Persian alphabet. And last week, Tajik Air decreased the number of flights it makes to Iranian cities.