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US, Austria Back Program to Combat Terrorism in Central Asia - 2003-03-16


The United States is supporting a project together with Austria and the European Union aimed at combating terrorism in Central Asia.

The United States said it is offering technical expertise and is closely working with the Austrian Interior Ministry to bring more security to Central Asia.

The idea stems from a meeting between Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and President Bush in Washington in November 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.

The overall objective of the program is to overhaul border operations in Central Asia, using a network of national academies. Lee Brudvig, counselor for economic and political affairs at the American Embassy in Vienna, said the United States is committed to multilateral actions to combat international crime in the region.

"What this project means is to improve and modernize the border control capacities in the Central Asia area, and to get the five Central Asian countries working more closely together in a network of police academies," he said.

Mr. Brudvig said this will be especially important with the enlargement of the European Union, when its borders move east to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The border security project, involving the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, is scheduled to run until 2005.

The European Union has earmarked around $3 million for border management as the first installment of a $12 million fund for its Central Asian security program.

Austria pays for a small secretariat to administer the program, and hosts regular expert meetings in Vienna.

In June, a high-level conference on the program is scheduled to take place in Brussels. Experts say the five Central Asian republics form part of a major route for illegal drug trafficking from Afghanistan to the European market.

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