Iran to join Central Asia nuclear-free zone?

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon in the Tajik capital Dushanbe Feb. 13, where the leaders of the two Persian-speaking countries issued a joint statement saying they stand for a world without nuclear arms and support creation of nuclear-free zones. They also said they regard peaceful use of nuclear power as the legal right of every country. Tajikistan has been part of a Central Asian Nuclear-Free Zone since 2006.

The document pledged cooperation against “such a shameful phenomenon” as terrorism, but decried “the use of double standards and defamation of Islam on the pretext of fighting terrorism.” Cooperation in the energy sector was also discussed, especially stepped-up construction of the Sangtudin hydro-power plant, being built with Iranian aid. (KazInform, Feb. 13)

Tajikistan’s National Security Council issued a statement after the meeting saying that an Iranian proposal for regional military integration is under consideration. (IRNA, Feb. 18)

The United Nations has issued an urgent appeal for food aid to stave off a humanitarian disaster in Tajikistan. The harshest winter in living memory has left hundreds of thousands of people bitterly cold and hungry. Rivers have frozen over, crippling the country’s Soviet-era hydro-electric system, resulting in severe power shortages. (RFE/RL, Feb. 18)

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