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    Uzbekistan ratifies treaty on nuclear-free Central Asia

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    Uzbek President Islam Karimov has completed the ratification of a treaty declaring Central Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone, the presidential press office said Tuesday.

    TASHKENT, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - Uzbek President Islam Karimov has completed the ratification of a treaty declaring Central Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone, the presidential press office said Tuesday.

    The accord, signed by the five post-Soviet countries of the volatile region September 8, 2006, passed through the lower house of Uzbekistan's parliament in January of this year, and was approved by the upper house in March. The treaty took nine years to negotiate.

    Officials from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan signed the pact at a ceremony in the northern Kazakh town of Semipalatinsk, home to now-defunct Soviet-era ranges for testing nuclear bombs.

    However, the three Western nuclear powers refused to sign an accompanying protocol to support the new treaty.

    The United States, Britain and France said they would not put their weight behind the pact unless provisions were scrapped that hypothetically allowed Russia to deploy nuclear weapons in Central Asia in a crisis.

    Those provisions were carried over from an older post-Soviet security pact, the 1992 Tashkent Treaty.

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