Central Asian leaders meeting at a regional economic and security summit in Turkey have agreed to set up a fund to help rebuild war-torn Afghanistan.
The leaders from the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization (E-C-O) also stressed the need to build a planned pipeline to carry Turkmenistan's vast natural gas reserves through Afghanistan to Pakistan. The pipeline would provide badly-needed transit fees for the Afghan economy.
Afghanistan participated in the talks for the first time since President Hamid Karzai assumed power after the ouster of the Taleban. Speaking at the summit, President Karzai said prosperity and stability in his country is essential to regional security.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also attended the meeting.
E-C-O was established in 1985 by Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Membership expanded to 10 countries in 1992 when the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan joined the organization, along with Afghanistan.
E-C-O member countries have a combined population of more than 300-million.