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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 05:51 GMT 06:51 UK
Regional aid for Afghanistan
President Karzai (R) with President Khatami of Iran (C) and President Musharraf of Pakistan
Mr Karzai is seeking cooperation from neighbours

Central Asian states and Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan have agreed to set up a fund to help rebuild Afghanistan.

The decision came at the end of a meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

The meeting was held to ensure the pledges of billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan are kept - Kabul has received much less aid this year than it had hoped for.

ECO members
Afghanistan
Azerbaijan
Iran
Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan
Pakistan
Tajikistan
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan
This was the first ECO summit to take place since the Taleban were ousted from Kabul.

On Monday, Afghan President of Hamid Karzai called on the member states to make a firm contribution towards the reconstruction of his country.

A new fund

Mr Karzai also used the first ECO summit since he was installed in office to urge rapid progress on a subject close to his heart - the construction of a pipeline through Afghanistan that will transport gas between Turkmenistan and Pakistan.

President Karzai with host Turkish President AN Sezer
Summit hosts Turkey play an important role in Kabul

The pipeline, which would bring badly needed cash into the Afghan economy, was originally conceived five years ago but has been on hold during the conflict to oust the Taleban.

This forum's hosts, Turkey, are currently playing a key role in Kabul, having taken command of the Isaf security force.

The emphasis being placed on Afghanistan has pushed other important regional issues down the agenda.

These include what is seen as the main purpose of the expanded ECO - the integration of the weaker central Asian economies with those of its main economic powers, Turkey Iran and Pakistan - ECO's three founder members in 1985.

Their market economies can potentially help guide the others - all former republics of the Soviet Union - out of their traditional reliance on centralised economic planning.

The summit is also an opportunity for the big three to reflect on ways to draw back from their past regional rivalries and to work in concert for the development of the region as a whole.


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07 Oct 02 | South Asia
06 Oct 02 | South Asian Debates
27 Sep 02 | Business
25 Jul 02 | South Asia
07 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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