TASHKENT, June 16: Uzbek President Islam Karimov goes to Tehran this week to sign an agreement with his Afghan and Iranian counterparts on building a road from his landlocked Central Asian country to Iran’s Gulf coast, the foreign ministry said on Monday.

“It’s the fixed position of these three countries that we agree to have this road, the next step is how to realize this agreement — the situation in Afghanistan is very complicated,” Uzbek foreign ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov told AFP.

Karimov, a leading US ally in ex-Soviet Central Asia, makes a two-day visit to Tehran starting on Tuesday amid increasing US pressure on Iran over its alleged development of nuclear weapons and support for “terrorism.”

Uzbekistan is “not involved in relations between (the United States and Iran),” but “international problems of interest to both Uzbekistan and Iran” will be discussed, Zakirov said.

If realised, the planned road through Afghanistan would represent a shift from Uzbekistan’s policy of largely shutting itself off from its neighbours, particularly Afghanistan, despite the severe economic consequences.

But the route of the road remains unclear.

Iran has wanted it to cover as little Afghan territory as possible while Uzbekistan would prefer a southerly route, perhaps eventually linking up with Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Karachi.

Earlier Zakirov said that Uzbekistan had much of the resources needed to construct a section of road from the southern Uzbek city of Termez across northern Afghanistan to Herat.

Help might also be sought from the international fund set up to aid the reconstruction of Afghanistan after US-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban regime in 2001, he added.—AFP

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