Uzbekistan refuses to deliver natural gas to Tajikistan

Western Tajikistan, including the capital Dushanbe, the town of Tursunzade and several major factories have been cut off from gas supplies since Wednesday, said Odiljon Salimjonov, a representative of the state gas distributing company Tajikgaz.

Officials of the Uzbek state gas transport company Uztransgaz said on a government Web site Thursday that the supplies were stopped after "repeated warnings" over what they said was Tajikistan's US$7.3 million debt for gas delivered this year.

Salimjonov, however, said that as of June 1 the Tajik debt amounted to US$3 million.

Both sides said that after the gas cut, Tajikistan blocked the gas pipeline that goes through a stretch of Tajik land to deliver gas to eastern Uzbek regions. Uztransgaz said the move was illegal and demanded the transit be resumed.

Under a US$40 million  contract between the two ex-Soviet republics Uzbekistan is to supply Tajikistan with 730 million cubic meters of natural gas in 2006.

Uztransgaz said it already delivered to Tajikistan nearly a half of that amount but has been paid only US$11.5 million.

Tajikistan, one of the poorest post-Soviet countries, heavily depends on Uzbek gas deliveries.

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