In a televised address marking Turkmenistan’s National Revival Day, President Saparmurad Niazov spoke of the importance of Islam in the country and how believers were offended by indiscriminate attacks against “fundamentalism.” According to Niazov, it is also “incorrect” to accuse Iran and Afghanistan of spreading “fundamentalism” in Central Asia. On another topic, Niazov disclosed that Iran offers considerably better terms than Russia offers for deliveries and transit of Turkmen gas. Niazov attributed Russia’s stance to “political motives” and warned against “mixing politics with gas.” (Turkmen Television as cited by BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, May 20)
The remarks on religion amount to a rejection of the Russian-led “troika,” recently created for the ostensible purpose of combating “Islamic fundamentalism” in Central Asia. The troika does not target Iran, which indeed cooperates with Russia and Uzbekistan against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan, which borders on Talib-controlled territory in Afghanistan, has repeatedly pointed out that the Talibs do nothing to spread their ideas in Turkmenistan.– VS
KAZAKHSTAN ASSUMES CHAIRMANSHIP OF ECO.