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OSCE acting head Mircea Geoana
"A traditional reluctance to embrace fully the values of western democracy"
 real 28k

Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 06:01 GMT 07:01 UK
OSCE warns of Islamic militancy
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The acting head of the European security organisation, the OSCE, has warned that a failure to develop democracy in Central Asia makes the region more vulnerable to extremism - especially Islamic extremism.

Mircea Geoana, who is the Romanian foreign minister, was speaking after a six-day tour which took him to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.


Economic transformation, social transformation and security concerns should go hand in hand with democratic change

Mircea Geoana
He said every leader he encountered displayed a lack of interest in issues such as human rights, the right of opposition, freedom of the press and respect for the rule of law.

"In gagging their opponents, they risk driving them to terrorist organisations and there exists in Central Asia a real danger of extremism, notably Islamic fundamentalism," Mr Geoana said.

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Mr Geoana told the BBC that the leaderships of Central Asia argued that culture, history and geography required that they move slowly towards democracy.

"They don't say 'We don't want to democratise' but [they do say] 'Give us some time; we want to open up the society at our pace, on our terms' - and this is something we have always rejected," Mr Geoana said.

Central Asia leaders are pressing for international economic aid and help to secure national borders against increasing traffic in drugs.

But Mr Geoana said: "Economic transformation, social transformation and security concerns should go hand in hand with democratic change."

He said the organisation was offering help with issues of security, the economy and the environment, to encourage the Central Asian states to move more aggressively to develop democracy.

The region is of critical importance, he noted, because of its strategic location and also because of its abundant natural resources including gas and oil.

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See also:

26 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Central Asia moves to thwart rebels
03 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Action against Central Asian militants
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