Ex-Soviet states join trade talks Muslim group welcomes republics of Central Asia.

February 17, 1992|By New York Times News Service

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran, Pakistan and Turkey welcomed leaders of the six former Soviet republics of Central Asia at a regional economic summit meeting in Tehran yesterday. At the opening of the two-day gathering, the presidents of Iran and Turkey presented contrasting but equally ambitious guidelines for economic development and trade cooperation.

Three of the former Soviet republics -- Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan -- were formally recognized yesterday as full members of the long-dormant Economic Cooperation Organization, which was founded in 1963 by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.

Officials of the other three republics -- Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan -- were present as observers, and membership for their republics is being considered.

"This is the meeting of a large Islamic family," Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani said in his address at the summit meeting yesterday. He spoke of "issues concerning Muslims," calling the plight of the Palestinians "a deep wound" and emphasizing the potential of the economic grouping.

Iranian officials have stressed the importance of safeguarding "common regional values" as people of the Caucasus look to their neighbors for economic aid and guidance. The meeting was labeled "a cause for solidarity among Muslim nations" by the state-run Iranian press.

But despite expectations for a lessening of tensions between Islamic Iran and secular Turkey, which are rivals for influence in the Central Asian republics, the Iranian and Turkish leaders offered incompatible concepts.

The Turkish president, Turgut Ozal, insisted that the organization develop an infrastructure similar to the European Community.

"It is important for us to take immediate steps to eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers," Mr. Ozal said. "We have to establish the free market system, the advantages of which are no longer contested."

The summit meeting is expected to approve a 10 percent reduction in trade tariffs, a common market for agricultural products, the training of experts and the creation of a Common Development Bank.

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