Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov has hailed the construction of the first bridge linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan as good tidings for the start of the postwar restoration in Afghanistan. Rahmonov, who was attending a ceremony to open the bridge on 3rd November, also said that another four such bridges would be built in future. He said that the bridge would also provide for Afghans' using the road being built from Tajikistan to China. He urged the donor countries to speed up the providing of the promised aid to Afghanistan and said that more than 60 per cent of humanitarian aid from all over the world had been sent to Afghanistan via Tajikistan. He said that Tajikistan was making every effort to develop transport and electricity infrastructures in the eastern region, which would also provide for the development of Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province. The Afghan vice-president, Hedayat Amin Arsala, and Prince Aga Khan IV also attended the ceremony, the television said. The following is an excerpt from the report by Tajik television on 4 November, subheadings inserted editorially
[Presenter] As we have reported, another historic event took place in independent Tajikistan on 3 November. The first permanent bridge between Tajikistan and Afghanistan was put into operation in [Tajikistan's eastern] Mountainous Badakhshon Autonomous Region [MBAR], and Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov attended its official opening ceremony. Our correspondent has a detailed report on this:
[Passage omitted: correspondent repeats all of the above]
[Correspondent] Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov arrived in Badakhshon Region on the morning of 3 November. The president was accompanied by Afghan Vice-President Hedayat Amin Arsala and Prince Aga Khan IV. The heads and representatives of a number of embassies and international organizations in Tajikistan arrived in Khorugh [the centre of MBAR] to take part in this great international event.
First bridge linking Tajikistan, Afghanistan
It should be said that the first permanent bridge between the countries was built at the Tajik government's initiative and with the direct backing of the Aga Khan Foundation. After arriving in Badakhshon, the guests came to the site of the bridge.
[Passage omitted: the bridge was opened in a festive atmosphere; construction was finished in 11 months]
The bridge is 135 metres long, 3.5 metres wide and has a load-bearing capacity of 25 tonnes. It was built with the Aga Khan Foundation's financial backing and 708,000 somoni [nearly 245,000 dollars] was spent on it. The bridge is important in terms of connecting the two countries, restoring Afghanistan, developing trade and economic cooperation, providing the Afghan people with the necessary food, especially in terms of linking the countries in the region and ensuring their access to world ports.
During a meeting with the residents of Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province, Rahmonov said that the Tajik government would continue to be involved in the restoration of Afghanistan. It should be noted that the Afghan people gave such a welcome to the Tajik president that even the requirements of protocol were ignored. The Tajik president and Badakhshan residents had a sincere conversation covering certain aspects of cooperation.
[Rahmonov in Tajik] Dear friends, this is the first permanent bridge - the bridge of friendship between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Five
such bridges will be built to link the Tajik part of Badakhshon with the Afghan Badakhshan. Such a bridge will be commissioned in Darwoz area, bridges will be built in Ishkoshim, Vanj and Shuroobod. The biggest bridge will be built in the area of Panj-i Poyon [southern Tajikistan] in the near future to link [the two countries].
Afghans may use Tajik road to China
What is our goal, we want you, the fraternal Afghan people, we do not consider, I personally, do not feel you to be foreigners, to join the civilized community, travel and trade. We are building a road via Karakorum to China. Traders and others will be able to reach China via this road. It is less than 200 km. The road is ready. This is a historic event for your prosperity, happiness, for increasing your well-being. Make use of it. Of course, Afghanistan's future is in your hands, one should try to establish complete peace and security throughout Afghanistan. The more peace and security there is, the sooner Afghanistan will prosper and develop and your well-being will improve.
Most aid to Afghanistan comes via Tajikistan
Tajikistan's policy towards Afghanistan has not changed in 10 years. Whatever we have done we have done with good intentions. More than 60 per cent of the humanitarian aid from all over the world has been sent to Afghanistan via Tajikistan.
I congratulate you on this happy and historic event. Long live the eternal friendship of the people of Tajikistan, the Tajik nation and the friendly and fraternal Afghan people. Our only wish has been peace and security, tranquillity and calm, happiness to the fraternal Afghan people, and we will further fight for this and assist in this.
[Passage omitted: representative of Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province expressed good wishes] [Correspondent] The people of Badakhshan expressed their profound gratitude to the Tajik president for his outstanding contribution to facilitating and strengthening the peace process, restoring the postwar economy, and offering comprehensive support to Afghanistan on the international level and within the framework of the biggest international organizations.
A festive meeting was then held on this historic occasion and the chairman of the MBAR, Alimamad Niyozmamadov, made an opening speech. After that, Emomali Rahmonov gave a speech. Highlighting the great importance of the permanent bridge between the two countries, he said that it was good news for the start of the postwar restoration of Afghanistan.
Bridge good tidings for Afghan restoration
[Rahmonov] First of all, I would like to sincerely welcome you all to friendly and fraternal Tajikistan. Having gathered in this beautiful site of Tajikistan today, we are witnessing an important event that will open a new chapter in Tajik-Afghan relations, and the visits by Afghan Vice-President Hedayat Amin Arsala and Prince Aga Khan IV are evidence of this. Our people say that the building of a bridge is a very good deed as they have always served as a symbol to connect people. While mankind is trying to resolve the Afghan problem today, the opening of the bridge between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is good tidings for the start of the postwar restoration in Afghanistan. I hope that this joint effort of ours will yield good results and will become a model for others.
Dear friends. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of you, first of all, the oppressed people of Afghanistan, on the completion of the construction of this important facility.
The construction was finished with the help and support of the Aga Khan Foundation. I would therefore like to sincerely thank His Eminence Prince Aga Khan IV on my and your behalf.
Efforts to develop transport infrastructure
Tajikistan understands clearly that one of the important foundations for establishing and consolidating complete peace in Afghanistan is the restoration of the social and economic infrastructure of the country. Acknowledging the fact that the development and expansion of economic and trade cooperation cannot be imagined without developing the transport infrastructure, Tajikistan will take precise measures to build new road networks and modern facilities and is seeking the best ways of settling these problems. This step is very important for developing economic relations between the regions. The creation of a unified transport road system, when Central Asian countries do not have direct access to sea ports, will be a new impetus to increase the geopolitical and economic and trade significance of the region. Here, we, in the first instance, consider the building of such facilities, the building of roads which will in the near future link our transport communication systems, to be a priority in our policy. That is why we have also started to construct such bridges in other parts of our borders.
A power cable was laid from Tajikistan up to Konduz [northern Afghanistan] during Soviet times and was operating. After restoring this line, Tajikistan will be ready to export electricity to neighbouring Afghanistan as far as possible and intends to extend the power cable to Kabul. Tajikistan is already supplying electricity to some bordering residential areas.
Call to speed up aid to Afghanistan
Dear friends, it is no secret that during its contacts with representatives of foreign countries Tajikistan has been stressing that only massive economic aid will make it possible to achieve good results in the restoration of Afghanistan, because if such aid is not provided, then the peace process in Afghanistan will be in danger.
It has to be noted that Tajikistan has been making great efforts to explain to the world community the real situation in Afghanistan and has created all the grounds and conditions for providing humanitarian aid via its territory. Data from the UN says that about 60 per cent of humanitarian aid has been sent to Afghanistan via Tajikistan. I am sure that from now on freight delivery will be stepped up and its quality will be improved.
Taking the opportunity of the presence of His Eminence [Aga Khan], the presence of the ambassadors of powerful states and international organizations, I want to appeal to the participant states at the Tokyo conference who promised over 4.5bn dollars for the restoration of Afghanistan, that this aid should be sent as soon as possible to step up the postwar restoration in Afghanistan.
[Passage omitted: Rahmonov asks the Aga Khan Foundation to provide more aid to Afghanistan; Tajikistan is ready to send specialists to Afghanistan; good wishes; correspondent comments on Rahmonov's speech]
Efforts to develop Badakhshon
If you remember, I said during a meeting in the region, in Khorugh, that the future century will be a century of development, advancement and prosperity for Badakhshon. What has been done to implement this good desire?
All the necessary documents have been drawn up and approved to set up a very influential international university in Khorugh, and with the help of His Eminence Aga Khan, who is its major donor, 200m dollars will be invested to build this great facility in Khorugh this year.
Much pressure was exerted on the Tajik government for many years in order to prevent it from approving the resolution giving the go-ahead to the construction of five bridges to link fraternal Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Not everybody wanted them. However, we did not give up our good will and good desires and approved it [the resolution], and here is the first bridge. I have invited His Eminence [Aga Khan IV] to attend the opening ceremony of the second bridge in Darwoz District [eastern Tajikistan] next year.
We, in the first instance, need electricity to develop Badakhshon. We are facing an electricity shortage now. We decided to continue and complete the Pomir hydroelectric station and signed an agreement to invest 10m dollars in this project and 26m dollars in its main project. A foreign company is now involved in the construction and it will be completed in three years. Then Badakhshon will be fully supplied with electricity and we will export it to Afghanistan's Badakhshan [Province] as well.
We are taking measures to eliminate the threat of the Sarez Lake. We were able to draw 20m dollars from the world community and donor countries for this purpose, and 4m dollars have been invested in building a road and an early warning system.
For the development of Badakhshon we need an international airport. We are studying the issue and will soon invite foreign companies and experts, probably by the end of the year. It can be built in Ishkoshim District. We are studying and thinking of getting foreign investment for this purpose. I am sure His Eminence Aga Khan will make his contribution to this, because this airport will provide services not only for Tajikistan's Badakhshon, it will also provide services to the region, for the people and development of Afghanistan's Badakhshan and to some areas of Pakistan. His Eminence [Aga Khan] has also accepted our proposal.
[Passage to end omitted: repeat of facts about the road linking Tajikistan and China, 35 km of which will be commissioned by the end of the year; Rahmonov praises Aga Khan]
Source: Tajik Television first channel, Dushanbe, in Tajik 1530 gmt 4 Nov 02
(c) BBC Monitoring