Kazakhstan. The defense ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, China and the Russian Federation - the so-called
Shanghai Five - met in March in K. and discussed the growing
threat to Central Asia from Afghan Islamic guerrillas. In
April, the Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
Presidents signed a 10-year agreement to combat terrorism,
political and religious extremism and organized crime in the
region jointly. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
traveled in the area during the spring, promising financial
support for Kazakhstan. At the same time, she
called for better protection of human rights.
COUNTRYAAH, President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited Moscow in June and
met the new Russian President Vladimir Putin. A decision was
made on a free trade zone and an anti-terrorist center. In
the same month, Parliament decided to make Nazarbayev a
lifetime president. When Nazarbayev was elected in 1999, the
opposition labeled the election "deeply unfair," and the
result was rejected by the OSCE.
In August, Islamic rebels entered both Kazakhstan's neighboring
states Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan from Afghanistan via
Tajikistan. Fighting with many casualties followed in both
countries. President Nazarbayev traveled to Kyrgyzstan to
meet his three Central Asian counterparts and discuss the
Due to the tense situation in the region close enough,
K's defense budget doubled compared to the previous year.
K's economy recovered during the year following the effects
of the Asian and Russian crises. The country benefited from
the high prices of its export oil and was able to implement
early repayments on loans from the International Monetary
Fund (IMF). But at least 60% of the population was still
estimated to be living in poverty.
Several severe environmental disasters were reported
during the year. Among other things, thousands of seals died
of poisoning in the Caspian Sea, and eight tons of poisoned
fish were picked up from a lake in northern Kazakhstan.