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Central Asian Leaders Promise to Increase Ties, Boost Trade - 2003-05-29

During a summit meeting in Moscow, leaders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have promised to increase ties and boost trade. Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the meeting of the six leaders at the Kremlin by stressing the need for coordinated action in the war on terror.

Mr. Putin warned against any one country taking unilateral actions against terror. He said that the United Nations must be the main international forum to handle disputes.

Chinese President Hu Jintao followed Mr. Putin's remarks by restating Beijing's opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq. He said the war itself may be over, but its effects on international relations are only now being felt. But all six leaders reaffirmed their support for the war on terror.

Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, besides being neighbors of Afghanistan, have had to deal with their own Islamic insurgencies and instability. All three have also hosted small contingents of American troops to assist them in the war on terror.

Several of the leaders at the Kremlin meeting stressed that economic development is also part of that fight against terror, saying increased trade and economic cooperation will help improve the economic situation in Central Asia.

In an effort to give the Shanghai Cooperation Organization more clout, the six leaders agreed to set up a permanent office for the organization in Beijing, not Shanghai, by January 1 of next year.

The organization was formed in 1996 with the intention of bringing more stability to the border region between China and the former Soviet republics.

It has slowly evolved into a forum for economic cooperation, but it also works on ways to fight drug smuggling as well as other issues that concern all six countries.