Weekly news wrap

The run-off election to the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament for those candidates who polled less than 50 percent following the first round held on 19 September was held in 22 of the 67 constituencies on Sunday, the Kazakh Kazinform news agency reported.

A total of 44 candidates contested the election in these constituencies, with the majority of them being nominees of pro-government parties. The Kazakh National Network of Independent Observers (NNIO) concluded that gross violations had taken place at all the stages of the election process. Compared with the previous parliamentary polls, this election had not been a step forward but had shown significant regression, the group claimed.

An outbreak of brucellosis, an infectious bacterial disease of human beings transmitted by contact with infected animals, had been registered in eastern Kazakhstan, with over 1,500 cases among cattle, the Kazakh media reported on Tuesday. More than a dozen people also contracted the disease in the region, Bolat Ghizzatov, director of the regional veterinary centre, said.

In Tajikistan, a number of Afghan refugees living in the northern Soghd province were expected to qualify for third country resettlement, namely to Canada, the Tajik media reported on Tuesday. Representatives from the Canadian embassy in Tajikistan visited Khujand, the capital of the Soghd region, in order to meet Afghan nationals there as part of the second phase of the programme on giving asylum to the Afghan refugees. Earlier in spring, some of the refugee families passed the first stage and 17 percent of the families were short listed for participation in the second stage.

Tajikistan became the 182nd member of Interpol, the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency reported on Wednesday. The decision on this was made on Tuesday at the 73rd General Assembly of the international police organisation, held in the Mexican resort city of Cancun. Tajikistan's nomination was supported unanimously by more than 100 delegations which participated in the vote.

Bishkek and Tashkent had agreed on almost 90 percent of their borders, the Kyrgyz Kyrgyzinfo news agency reported on Tuesday. A total of 87 percent of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek borderline had practically been agreed on, Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Lidiya Imanaliyeva said, adding, however, that talks were proceeding very slowly. Currently, the sides have started working on the most complex section - Batken-Ferghana - where the border sometimes literally passes through houses and ditches.

Borders in Central Asia are a long standing issue, a legacy of the Soviet Union when frontiers were simply administrative and drawn in the 1930s without considering local conditions.

Officials in the southern Kyrgyz province of Batken had reported that local residents had been recently complaining about long checks by the Uzbek border guards at the Uzbek Sokh enclave, the Kyrgyz media reported on Thursday. One needs to pass through the Sokh enclave while travelling from the main southern city of Osh to Batken.

In Uzbekistan, the country's foreign minister said on Tuesday that security in the region depended on peace and stability in Afghanistan, the AP reported. Tashkent and Washington cooperate actively to help Afghanistan's political and economic revival, the Uzbek foreign ministry said in a statement following a meeting between US Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs, Lincoln Bloomfield, and Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev.
His assessment comes within days of Afghanistan's first ever presidential election on 9 October. Uzbekistan became a key ally in the US war on terror and hosts hundreds of US troops on a base in the southern part of the country, supporting operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Kamol Dostmetov, head of the Uzbek Information and Analytical Centre for Drug Control, said that record amounts of drugs had been produced in Afghanistan in 2004, the Uzbek Biznes-Vestnik Vostoka newspaper reported on Thursday. There had been an expansion of more than 30 percent in the poppy cultivation areas in the country, he claimed.
A new study by the World Bank - Millennium Development Goals for Health in Europe and Central Asia released on Wednesday - said that not enough was being done to tackle common illnesses in the region such as heart disease, lung cancer and injuries, which were reducing life expectancy in many countries.

“These countries need to adopt different strategies to improve the health of their populations. It would clearly be mistaken to take goals designed for some countries and apply them everywhere,” explained Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the authors of the report.
According to the report, there was too much focus on child and maternal mortality, while tackling adult diseases could increase life expectancy at birth in many countries of the region.
On Friday, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) released its annual Progress for Children, a Child Survival Report, which said that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were amongst the ten countries in the world where the least progress had been made in reducing child mortality since 1990.