- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2001

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (UPI) — This Central Asian nation will not join the rapid-reaction forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States or sign the CIS Collective Security Treaty, President Islam Karimov said.
"We have pulled out of the Collective Security Treaty and are not going to join again," Mr. Karimov said during a news conference late last week in the city of Fergana, some 150 miles southeast of the capital, Tashkent.
"Uzbekistan is not joining and will not join any military-political blocs."
The CIS, created in 1991, included Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Tashkent, however, pulled out of the treaty in 1999.
Exercises for the CIS's rapid-reaction force, known as Dostlik-2001 (Friendship), began in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, according to local media reports. The exercises aim to increase the military readiness of a multinational force to combat terrorism and other foreign incursions.
Participation in military-political blocs contradicts Uzbekistan's goals for the future, according to Mr. Karimov. "We do not want a return to old times," he said, referring to the former Soviet Union.
"Security, maintaining peace and stability in the Central Asian region, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, and quieting creeping expansion of extremism" are priorities for cooperation, the Uzbek president said.
Mr. Karimov stressed that terrorism in Central Asia is a major threat to the security of Uzbekistan and the region.
Last year, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan organized armed incursions into the Surkhandarya and Tashkent regions of Uzbekistan. In February 1999, the IMU took responsibility for a bomb blast that killed 16 and wounded more than 100 people.
The movement seeks to overthrow Mr. Karimov and replace the present Uzbek government with an Islamic state. The State Department put the IMU on its list of international terrorist groups last September.


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