03/31/2008, 00.00
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Iran asks to enter the anti-terrorism organisation of central Asia

Tajikistan will support the request. Iran wants in this way to break its international isolation and become a privileged partner of Russia and China. Experts: it is likely that the request will not be accepted now, in order to avoid conflicts with the U.S. and Europe. But there is an intention to create a strong organisation in central Asia.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Iranian foreign minister Manuchehr Mottaki has announced that Tajikistan will support Tehran's request for entry into the anti-terrorist Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). On March 27, the secretary of the SCO, Bolat Nurgaliev of Kazakhstan, also welcomed the request.

The SCO, which is composed of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, was created to combat international terrorism, but has increasingly become a privileged arena for economic and political cooperation. Tehran is trying to break its international isolation following accusations of developing nuclear resources for military purposes, and of supporting international terrorism. With the SCO, which comprises 25% of the world's land mass and is the world's largest energy producer, Iran would be a privileged partner of Russia and China (which are in turn very interested in the country's oil and natural gas), and  as a "military" organisation, it could assure Iran protection against an attack by the United States and Israel.

Experts observe that Moscow and Beijing are interested in creating a zone of privileged collaboration in central Asia, partly as a counterweight against NATO. At the summit in Astana in 2005, the group "urged" the United States to agree to troop removals from member countries, and shortly after this Uzbekistan asked the U.S. to leave its air base in Khanabad. But the experts also note that Iran's position is highly "compromised", and that its admission to the group would be more helpful for Tehran than for Russia and China, which do not intend to create immediate conflicts with the Unites States and the European Union, which are leading the accusations against the Iranian nuclear programme. It is thus likely that Tehran's request will not be accepted until it resolves its nuclear questions.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India will also participate in the SCO as observers.  Pakistan, which receives a lot of protection from China, has also expressed its desire to become a member, while India says it is "not interested".  Another reason, especially for Russia, not to admit new members for now.

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