China and Central Asian States Agree to Fight So-called Islamic Militancy and Back ABM Treaty

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            [Russia, China and four former Central
             Asian Republics are united against so-
             called Islamic militancy. Read photo 
             caption below.]

China and Central Asian states Agree to fight so-called Islamic militancy and back ABM treaty

SHANGHAI, June 15 (Islamweb, Agencies) -
China, Russia and four Central Asian states Friday signed a joint statement in support of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, a Russian official told AFP.

At the same time, the group meeting in Shanghai have pledged to fight the spread of Islamic militancy, and to work towards establishing closer ties.

Leaders from the newly named Shanghai Co-operation Organisation will sign an agreement on Friday aimed at curbing "extremism, terrorism and separatism".

Meanwhile, the statement on ABM was signed by the defence ministers of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ahead of a full leaders' summit in the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai.

The SCO said the ABM treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union, which US President George W. Bush wants to scrap, was the "cornerstone of global stability and security", said the Russian official.

Bush, who is due to hold his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday in Slovenia, says the ABM treaty is a relic of the Cold War.

His commitment to build a National Missile Defence would effectively render the 1972 treaty obsolete.

The SCO groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

On Thursday, Uzbekistan became the sixth member of the a 5-year-old regional group, which Moscow and Beijing hope will counterbalance growing US influence.

A BBC correspondent in Moscow says the addition of Uzbekistan - where authorities are fighting one of the region's strongest rebel groups - is a logical progression.

China, with a large and restive Muslim population in its far west, is keen to stem the growth of Islamic militancy in Central Asia and prevent groups there linking up with Muslim separatists inside China.

All the countries at the summit are dealing with Muslim guerrillas to some extent, many of whom are believed to receive support from Afghanistan's militant Muslim Taleban movement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Chinese President Jiang Zemin for talks ahead of the Russian leader's first meeting with US President George W Bush on Saturday.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands prior to the "Shanghai Five" meeting Friday, June 15, 2001 in Shanghai, China. The presidents of China, Russia and central Asian nations gathered in Shanghai to discuss cooperation in combatting Islamic militants. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)

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