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Uzbeks, Tajiks Urge Karimov To Lift Rail Blockade

KHATLON, Tajikistan -- Uzbek President Islam Karimov is being urged by Uzbek and Tajik businesspeople to resolve the problems blocking rail traffic along the Tajik-Uzbek border, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Saidjon Yodgori, the deputy chief of the Tajik Railroad Company's cargo services, told RFE/RL that 302 railcars with goods bound for the southern Tajik region of Khatlon were currently unable to leave Uzbek territory.

He said 81 of them were filled with fuel from Afghanistan, 72 cars were carrying wheat and flour, and 56 were full of construction materials.

A businessman from the city of Qurghonteppa, Esanjon Mustafokulov, told RFE/RL the Uzbek Society of Tajikistan and businessmen in Khatlon had sent a letter to Karimov warning that they would demand compensation for all losses resulting from the stoppage in rail traffic between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

But Mustafokulov said he was not optimistic that there would be a positive response to the joint letter.

The Gazpromneft-Tajikistan Company has been fined a total of $400,000 by the Uzbek authorities because its railcars were stuck on Uzbek territory last year.

The Tajik Railroad Company has repeatedly accused Uzbekistan of deliberately blocking and delaying cargo bound for Tajikistan over the past several years.

Tashkent says it has only blocked construction material being sent for the controversial Roghun hydropower plant.

A leading activist in the Uzbek Society of Tajikistan, Zebo Sattorova, said that last year her organization urged Karimov "to change his position regarding Tajikistan's plans to build the Roghun hydropower station and to end the economic blockade of Tajikistan's Khatlon Province."

Sattorova said Uzbek authorities did not reply to the society's request.

Read more in Tajik here

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