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Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 03:08 GMT 04:08 UK
Leaders upbeat for Dushanbe summit
Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin was optimistic about the Dushanbe summit
By Catherine Davis in Dushanbe

The presidents of China and Tajikistan have expressed confidence that their border dispute can be resolved.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his Tajik counterpart, Imomali Rakhmonov, were speaking ahead of a summit meeting of the regional grouping, the Shanghai Five in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.

Other issues under discussion include regional security and the threat posed by religious extremism, terrorism and the flow of drugs and weapons through the region.

It is President Jiang Zemin's first visit to Tajikistan, where he is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will make a flying visit to attend the summit.

The leaders of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan - the other two members of the group - are also in Dushanbe, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov is expected to be present as an observer.

Security issues

Tajikistan and China have already reached agreement on most sections of their common border.

The remaining area is in the remote Pamir mountains - a boundary that was disputed in Soviet times.

Tajikistan has been embroiled in civil war

In a statement, President Rakhmonov said both leaders expressed their readiness to work together to combat threats to security posed by religious extremism, separatism and terrorism.

Both presidents called for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan - it could be solved only through talks, not by force, they said.

On economic issues, President Zemin drew attention to the growing trade between the two countries - three times that for the same period last year, according to official figures - and the vital importance of the road being built linking Tajikistan to China.

Focus shifted

The group is named after the Chinese city where a treaty on co-operation between China and the four former Soviet republics was signed in 1996.

This is the first time Tajikistan has hosted an international gathering since it emerged from years of civil war.

For the presidents attending the meeting, the focus of the gathering has shifted since the countries first met four years ago.

Then the key issue was how to solve complex and long-running border issues between the former Soviet Union and China.

China is anxious to stop the separatist movement in its western province of Xinjiang gaining support from fellow Muslims in Central Asia.

Banners out

Around the city centre, flags have been raised in preparation for the summit.

One banner across the street proclaims: "Tajikistan Welcomes the Heads of State of the Shanghai Five".

Streets are being cleaned, railings painted and flowerbeds planted.

It is clear that Tajikistan wants to present a positive image to the world community and to move away from its reputation as an unstable state that was torn apart by a civil war in the mid-1990s.

Security for the summit is tight, with special police drafted in and on full alert.

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24 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Hostage crisis overshadows summit
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