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Central Asia now nuclear-weapon-free zone

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, March 23 (UPI) -- Central Asia became the fifth nuclear-weapon-free zone in the world Saturday, drawing praise from the head of the United Nations.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan all ratified the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, which establishes a region-wide prohibition on research, testing or possession of nuclear weapons.

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the ratification and entry into force of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty Saturday as a step forward for the region's compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the United Nations reported.

Establishing the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone is a dramatic shift from the region's history with nuclear weapons, including more than "400 atomic blasts at the Semipalatinsk testing ground" in Kazakhstan, according to a U.N. news release.

"Central Asia joins the four other nuclear-weapon-free zones: Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa," the release said.

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