U.N. fostering south, Central Asia trade

May 12, 2004 at 3:54 PM

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, May 12 (UPI) -- A U.N.-backed conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, seeks to exploit new opportunities for trade from south to Central Asia.

"Regional cooperation is a necessity and not an option," the administrator of the U.N. Development Program, Mark Malloch Brown, Wednesday told 150 delegates from eight countries in the Kyrgyzstan capital.

For the first time in Afghanistan's history, the basis for expanding political and social freedoms was being laid, he said, adding that it was clear that the destinies of the region's countries were tied, for good or ill, since few parts of the world were as interdependent as the Central Asia region.

The conference for "Afghanistan's Regional Economic Cooperation: Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan" is aimed at helping Afghanistan's re-entry into the regional economy by mapping out new opportunities for trade and investment and considering actions to normalize trade and transit and harmonize customs procedures.

"Our politics is the politics of poverty reduction and economic cooperation," Afghanistan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani said. "We must focus on ways to make the entire region competitive because the advantages are immense."

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