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Central Asia Seen Unstable On Energy

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Oil and gas reserves in Central Asia are no easy solution to Europe's dependence on Russia, a report by the International Crisis Group said Friday.

Central Asian nations are criticized in the West over democracy and human rights, but Europe also sees the region as a potential new source of energy to bypass Russia.

The think tank said this policy could eventually backfire.

"The international community needs to pay more attention to Central Asia as a security risk, without expecting it to solve its outside energy needs," the group said in a report on key regional producers Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

"If Western governments turn their eyes away from mismanagement and human rights abuses in expectation of short-term gains, they risk stimulating instability in Central Asia that will only add to their energy and other security problems."

Last week, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed constitutional amendments allowing him to stay in office for life, a move condemned by the opposition and international rights groups but largely brushed off by the West.

"The concern should be less about the West's energy security and more about these countries as a source of generalized insecurity for the region and the human security of their inhabitants," the report said.

(The Moscow Times 28.v.07)

 
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