Kyrgyzstan will return to Iran a 700-ton consignment of mostly Russian arms and ammunition, more than the 500 tons reported initially, destined for Afghan warlord Ahmad Shah-Masood. Some Kyrgyz officials, acting on their own initiative, had revealed and impounded the cargo aboard an Iranian train on October 10 in Osh, deeply embarrassing the Kyrgyz government. The military cargo, listed as humanitarian aid, was a clear case of contraband (see the Monitor, October 15).
At a closed parliamentary session yesterday, the government informed the relevant committees of its decision to stop the criminal investigation and to return the arms cargo to Iran. Some deputies had called for an investigation into the background of the affair, also urging that the consignment be confiscated by the Kyrgyz state under the rules applying to any contraband cargo. The leader of the opposition Erkin-Kyrgyzstan Party, Tursunbai Bakirov, argued that returning contraband goods to the initiating party creates a dangerous precedent in Central Asia.
The government, however, cited its own “fears about complicating Kyrgyzstan’s relations with Iran and other countries.” “Other countries” evidently include primarily Russia, who–along with Iran and Tajikistan–supports Masood. It is widely suspected that this particular military cargo was neither the first nor the last sent via Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, October 20).–VS
NEW KAZAKHSTANI MINISTRY AND ECONOMIC COUNCIL CREATED.