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OSCE to Combat Arms Afghan-Uzbek Arms Smuggling - 2003-07-05

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says it intends to set up a security belt along the border between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to try to combat illegal trafficking in small arms. The topic is on the international agenda, and is to be discussed at the United Nations next week.

The OSCE 's Conflict Prevention Center is working with the United Nations in the fight against organized crime by seeking to curb the flow of small arms and light weapons from Afghanistan to central Asia. The task is enormous, since there are estimated to be around 10 million small arms in Afghanistan alone.

OSCE officials are teaming up in the project with Uzbek and Afghan authorities at the Termez-Hayraton border checkpoint. This checkpoint serves as a bridge to Europe for countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. According to the OSCE , the program involves specialized training for Uzbek customs and border officials to bring them into line with international standards.

Sabine Machl, senior program officer for central Asia, says OSCE experts can offer advice on site.

"These include some risk assessments, assessing body language, detection and seizure exercises at the checkpoint, also targeting vehicles, documentation, identifying forgery or disguised weapons through X-ray machines," she said.

Ms. Machl says the OSCE wants other central Asian states to join the integrated border management project. An important aspect will be the development of an English language training package with specialized border control vocabulary.

According to United Nations figures, small arms and light weapons kill 500,000 people each year, mostly civilians. Most of the major conflicts in the 1990s were fought with small arms.

Next week a meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York is expected to review progress on combating illicit trade in small arms.