ALMATY, Kazakhstan - Kazakhstan believes Iraq should be given a final chance to divest itself of its weapons of mass destruction; but if it spurns that chance this Central Asian republic will be ready to provide its airspace and its airports to support a military operation against Baghdad. This was made clear here last night by the Kazakh Foreign Minister, Kasimjomart Tokaev, in a conversation with Haaretz.
The minister was guest of honor earlier at a dinner given by the visiting Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations and the local Euro-Asian Jewish Congress to close the interfaith Conference on Peace and Accord. Tokaev said the U.S. had been "very persuasive" in adducing evidence against Saddam Hussein. "If it is indeed proved that they have WMD, there is no justification for the existence of this regime."
Kazakhstan opened its airspace and provided ground services for allied air forces during the campaign against al-Qaida in Afghanistan last year. Kazakhstan's successful divestment of its own nuclear capability, the foreign minister said, could serve as a guide to the Iraqi people after the confrontation ends and a new government takes over in Baghdad. "It is very important for the leadership to explain to the people that the state can not only survive but prosper and succeed, after it has voluntarily disarmed." It was important, too, he said, for the state to receive international guarantees.
Kazakhstan had received such guarantees, a year after its own disarmament, from all five permanent members of the UN Security Council. After they had disarmed, and in large measure thanks to that action, the Kazakhs had been able to conclude treaties of "eternal friendship" with neighbors Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, a formula that is unprecedented in international diplomacy. With China they signed a treaty of "friendship and good neighborliness."
Kazakhstan, the world's ninth largest country, now has juridically recognized borders all around - a feat that the long-serving Tokaev takes personal pride in having meticulously negotiated.
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