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Uzbek leader announces air transit for NATO Afghan operations

Uzbek President Islam Karimov is seen here on the left. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tashkent (AFP) May 11, 2009
Uzbekistan has begun shipping non-military supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan through its central cargo airport in the city of Navoi, President Islam Karimov said on Monday.

The Uzbek leader made the announcement at a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, whose country is upgrading Navoi airport to become a major transport hub.

"Now, through Novoi airport, transport has begun of non-military supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan," Karimov said at the meeting.

The announcement represents the latest step by this ex-Soviet state to provide transit support for Western operations in Afghanistan.

It is part of a wider push by the United States to increase transit through the former Soviet states to support an expanded US troop presence in Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan has also agreed to allow transit by rail of bulkier goods such as building materials to support the long-term US presence in Afghanistan.

Growing disruption to supply routes through Pakistan has made it all the more essential for Western forces to boost transit through the ex-Soviet states located on the north side of Afghanistan.

Several of the states have agreed only to transit of non-lethal supplies, such as food or building supplies, rather than transit of weapons or ammunition.

This reflects political sensitivities over the Western presence in ex-Soviet Central Asia, which Russia in particular has voiced worries about.

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