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Uzbekistan to recognize Taliban control

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October 14, 2000 


TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, OCT 13 (AP) - In a sharp break from its neighbors' united opposition to the Taliban, Uzbekistan is considering recognizing the radical Islamic government in Afghanistan - a move that would make it only the fourth country to do so.

President Islam Karimov said that the Taliban control 95 percent of Afghanistan's territory and are accepted by the country's people. Uzbekistan is willing to go along with their choice, Karimov said.

"Tashkent officialdom is ready to recognize any government in Afghanistan, even if it is the Taliban government," Karimov told reporters on Thursday. "It doesn't matter whether we like that government or not. The main criterion is whether the people of Afghanistan trust it."

Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Taliban government, which has imposed a rigid form of Islamic law.

Uzbekistan's fellow ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia are wary of the spread of militant Islam, and their armies have squared off against guerrillas reportedly supplied from Afghanistan. A statement this week by the presidents of six former Soviet republics in a collective security organization - including Tajikistan, Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan - described Afghanistan as a "center of international terrorism and drug-trafficking."

But Uzbekistan, which has also battled Islamic insurgents, has shunned the collective security pact. It apparently fears that the pact would restore Russia's Soviet-era clout in the region.

Although Karimov insists on strictly secular government in Uzbekistan and has repressed some fervently Islamic movements, his government has been in informal talks with Taliban representatives recently. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov has said that the sides had discussed "noninterference" in each other's affairs.

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