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SCO Not Eastern Version of NATO
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The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was not a copy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as some claimed and it had no plans to become a military bloc, the organization's chief said yesterday.

The allegation that the SCO was an eastern equivalent to NATO was "totally groundless," said Zhang Deguang, the SCO's secretary-general, at a news conference in Beijing ahead of the organization's summit in Shanghai next week.

"The SCO has never sought confrontation with any parties and its aims have nothing at all to do with becoming a military bloc," said Zhang. The organization would continue holding high the flag of peace, cooperation and openness, he added.

The SCO, established in Shanghai in 2001, is a regional cooperation and security association comprising of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India, Mongolia, Iran and Pakistan are observers to the organization.

The leaders of the four observer countries have been invited to attend next week's meeting including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But Zhang said the Iranian nuclear problem would not be the main issue at the SCO summit. "Given the regional nature of the SCO I do not think the Iranian problem will be a priority," he told reporters. He added that observer countries didn't have voting rights at the summit.

"Their participation will be strictly in line with the agenda that is agreed on by the SCO member countries," he said. The SCO pursued an open policy but it had not formulated legal documents on accepting new members at present, he explained. 

On the subject of cooperation in nuclear non-proliferation Zhang said, "A mechanism to fight the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction has been created in the framework of the SCO but we do not yet have legal documents on the issue."

The Shanghai summit marks the organization's fifth anniversary and Zhang said it would produce some crucial decisions. During the summit leaders of the member countries will review the SCO's achievements and its construction and development over the past five years.

"A declaration on the fifth anniversary of the SCO will be signed at the summit," said Zhang.

Important documents on the promotion of the partnership in security and economy particularly in energy fields will also be signed.

Zhang described the past five years as "a sowing season" saying the next five years would see the "harvest" of the fruits of the SCO's work.

He said the SCO planned to become more pragmatic in strengthening cooperation among member countries to promote economic growth. "Our present goal is to realize the free flow of commodities, capital, technologies and services in the region within 20 years," said Zhang.

He said the SCO would establish an entrepreneurs committee to provide a platform for executives in the member countries to seek cooperative partners.

"We're on the way to reaching an agreement on cross-border road transport to facilitate multilateral exchanges," said Zhang.

He also highlighted the challenges the SCO faces, including the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as drug trafficking, cross-border crime and illegal weapons trafficking.

(China Daily June 7, 2006)



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