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Afghan Reconstruction, Iraq Discussed at Turkey Summit - 2002-10-14


The leaders of countries in the Caspian Sea region have agreed Monday to set up a fund to help Afghanistan. The decision was reached at an economic summit in Turkey's commercial capital, Istanbul.

The leaders, from 10 mainly Muslim nations, came to Istanbul to discuss several issues, including tensions between India and Pakistan as well efforts to help Afghanistan rebuild its economy.

Speaking at the summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said prosperity and stability in his country was essential to regional security.

Mr. Karzai added that he hoped in the future to host a regional meeting that would focus on preventing terrorist groups from operating in and along his country's borders.

Besides agreeing to establish an investment fund to help Afghanistan's reconstruction, the regional leaders also stressed the need to build a planned pipeline to carry Turkmenistan's vast natural gas reserves via Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Transit fees from the estimated $2.5 billion pipeline would give the Afghan economy a sorely needed boost.

Afghanistan had expected around two billion dollars in foreign aid this year, but received considerably less, with the bulk of funds flowing to humanitarian projects rather than the Afghan government.

In remarks at the summit, Pakistan's leader, Pervez Musharref, reiterated his nation's support for the U.S.-led war against global terrorism.

President Musharraf also said his country would not, in his words, be the one to start a war with India over Kashmir, the province claimed by India and Pakistan. The two countries, both nuclear powers, nearly went to war last year over the province.

Iran's leader Mohammad Khatami echoed Turkish fears over the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

President Khatami said the dismemberment of Iraq was unacceptable, as was unilateral action to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Both Iran and Turkey are opposed to U.S. military action against Iraq, fearing that Iraq's Kurds would exploit the ensuing power vacuum to set up their own state. Both regional powers argue that the establishment of an independent Kurdish state on their borders would arouse separatist sentiment among their own restive Kurdish populations.

Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan established the Economic Cooperation Organization in 1985. Its membership expanded to 10 countries in 1992, when Afghanistan and the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan joined the organization.