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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
China and Central Asia boost ties
By Louisa Lim
BBC China correspondent

Karakul Cattle Market, Kyrgyzstan
China is seen as a counterweight to US influence in Central Asia
The Prime Ministers of China, Russia and four central Asian nations have met in Beijing and approved a budget for their regional security grouping.

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Correspondents say the summit is an attempt to strengthen the group's political identity.

Chinese officials described the summit as opening a new era of co-operation.

Prime ministers agreed on the groupings' economic goals and finalised next year's budget - the organisation's first in the seven years since it was set up.

These steps were designed to provide a structure for the alliance, which sees itself as a counterweight to rising US influence in the region.

Divisions

Diplomats in Beijing say China will shoulder a relatively large share of the cost, but no figures have yet been released.

The money will pay for a permanent headquarters in Beijing and an anti-terrorism office in the Uzbek capital, both of which are due to open at the end of the year.

The centre was initially planned for the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek and the decision to move it indicates the depth of concern over Tashkent's deepening ties with the US.

Following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan allowed American troops into their countries without consulting the organisation.

In an attempt to rekindle the alliance the grouping held its first anti-terrorism exercises last month in China and Kazakhstan but Uzbekistan did not attend.


SEE ALSO:
Kyrgyzstan agrees Russian base
22 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific
China-Kyrgyz anti-terror exercises
10 Oct 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Kazakhstan's balancing act
04 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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