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Uzbekistan to Reopen Afghan Bridge Soon - 2001-12-06


Uzbek President Islam Karimov says his government plans to re-open the bridge leading from the Uzbek port of Termez to northern Afghanistan once the region is secured.

Mr. Karimov told the Uzbek parliament today (Thursday) that he hopes the bridge will reopen in the near future.

The Uzbek leader also confirmed that some 15 hundred U-S troops are stationed in his country. Mr. Karimov says they are being used mostly for support and search-and-rescue operations.

Uzbekistan has been facing intense pressure from humanitarian aid groups and foreign governments to re-open the so-called "friendship bridge' over the river Amu Darya -- the only road link between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

Aid officials say the refusal to open the bridge has severely hampered efforts to get food and other basic necessities to the Afghan people.

Uzbek officials, who fear incursions by Islamic extremists, say they want to be assured of a stable situation in Afghanistan before they re-open the bridge.

The kilometer-long bridge was built in 1982 during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It was closed four years ago when the Taleban took control of the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

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