Sevara Sharapova, Ph.D. (Political Science), assistant professor, Political Science and Law Department, Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies (Uzbekistan)

The terrorist acts of 11 September, 2001 were of signal importance for Central Asia and the course of its contemporary history. The headquarters of al-Qaeda and of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan turned Central Asia into a world political center. Russia is unable to establish and maintain geopolitical equilibrium in it while China so far has betrayed no desire to address the task. Iran and Pakistan cannot exert any tangible geopolitical influence on it while the system of the balance of interests is conspicuously absent from the region. Afghanistans recent history has amply demonstrated that an absence of such balance of interests may turn the country into a very real threat and a seat of destructive elements. The United States and the West have become acutely aware of this, they realized that the situation called for an adequate response and that the spheres of influence in the region should be either reconfirmed or totally changed to fit the current realities.

The urgency of the task forced the West to actively interfere: a heightened interest of one player caused a response from other interested forces. This opened another round of rivalry for geopolitical domination in the region. The highest, and somewhat unexpected, moment in the situations development was the Russia-NATO alliance that brought together the recent opponents.

The antiterrorist coalition became possible because the vital interests of its members coincided. Americas NATO allies supported United States initiative about a military operation in Afghanistan almost immediately. Russia that had already tasted terrorism responded fairly quickly. The post-Soviet Central Asian republics (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) as victims of instability Afghanistan emanated promptly joined the ranks of the antiterrorist coalition. Pakistan, despite an upsurge of popular indignation, allowed the coalition to use its territory and air space. This was how the antiterrorist opposition took its final shape.

As soon as the generally successful military operation had been completed the coalition had to answer the questions: What next? What should be done in the region to prevent similar developments? Should peace be preserved by American military bases or should the U.S. and West European countries try to integrate the newly independent states into their military structures? What are the aims and tasks of U.S. geopolitics in Central Asia and to what extent do they harmonize with Russias interests there? What is the place of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other countries in the new regional context?

To answer these questions one has to identify the geopolitical and geostrategic interests of the coalition members. Much has been already written on this score, especially about the U.S. conduct and its cooperation with Russia. There are two points of view: the Americans having settled themselves in the Eurasian heartland are trying to translate Mackinders ideas into reality (the power that controls the Eurasian heartland controls the continent and the world) or aware of their interests the Americans are working toward a limited strategic partnership with Russia (the central link of the Eurasian continent opposed to the Atlantic world) so that to make the geopolitical idea of mondialism a reality.1

To my mind NATO Secretary General George Robertson when speaking in Reykjavik has given a clear presentation of the U.S. and Western geopolitical and geostrategic interests in Central Asia. He underlined the role of Uzbekistan in the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan and predicted that in future, too, military victories would be won by mobile military units. This was a conclusion he has drawn from the post-11 September experience. It was in this respect that Uzbekistans support of the United States was very important as well as the ties between North America, Europe, and Central Asia.2

What the NATO Secretary General has said allows a conclusion that there is an idea of setting up strong points or bases (make your pick) along the borders of states and territories that the Atlantic world regards as potentially dangerous (traditional geopolitics) or threatening the Western way of life (the policy of mondialism). At the same time an agreement on Russia-NATO alliance devalued the previously used instruments: the opposition between the Atlantic countries (NATO members) and Eurasian continentalism (for example, Russia). Today, the positions of the Atlantic countries and Moscows strategic interests coincide. Both are looking at a more serious potential rival that NATO at 20 is supposed to block off.

How should Central Asia respond to the new challenges? Geographically it is a key region: it borders on Russia, China, and Iran (each of them with geopolitical designs of their own in relation to Central Asia) and on unstable Afghanistan. Huge hydrocarbon reserves add to the regions geopolitical weight. On the other hand, Central Asia attracts the West as a site of its potential strongpoints. Indeed, as distinct from Pakistan this is a homogenous Muslim area with secular states the population of which has preserved Soviet acceptance of European norms and values. As distinct from other Asian countries their elites and nations nurture no anti-Western sentiments.

The antiterrorist operation accompanied by the economic, military, and political aid coming from the United States and its allies forced the Central Asian countries to stake on their common regional interests: peace, stability, conditions for sustainable development and an access to international transportation lines. Each of the countries has to revise its priorities and to develop a joint strategy of meandering among the interested outside forces.

This calls for a multisided diplomacy that has become a factor of major importance. On the one hand, it boosts the local countries strength and opens a field for maneuvering. On the other, it makes it possible for the states to adequately respond to any developments: the outside forces prefer to act through their organizations.

What is the most important element in the politics pursued by all interested forces in Central Asia: geopolitics, geo-economics or a simple coincidence between the short-term and strategic tasks of the United States and the West in general, and Russia in relation to China (its growing might and crawling expansion in Siberia are causing concern), etc.?

On the one hand, there is a reason for their presence in the region rich in energy fuels and brimming with potential ethnic conflicts. The political regimes are still developing, the region borders on unstable Afghanistan while the great powers and the regional forces are still contending over influence in the region. One cannot deny the importance of the regions geographic location between Europe and the Far East, Russia and South Asia, the area is also a meeting place of several religions. This cannot but breed interest in it.

At the same time there are doubts about the now pursued strategy (aimed at restoring the geopolitical approach). Indeed, the world in the 21st century is becoming globalized and economy-dominated. There is no confidence that the geopolitical approach may resolve the regions problems and prevent their negative impact on international security. It seems that the latest doctrine of adding more culture to international relations through harmonized interests, compromises, integration, and unified legal norms looks quite adequate today.

It is still unclear which of the paradigmsgeopolitical or geo-economicwill prevail in Central Asia. What we do see is an open and latent rivalry for influence that often takes a form of competition among alliances of states. As a result the alliances allow their members to pursue their particular interests in the region. Urged by suspicions in relation to other forces each of them seeks a country on which it could rely in the regional rivalry. In the final analysis, a presence or absence of influence of any of the outside forces speaks about the real outside impact in Central Asia. In the same way, the role and potentials of any of the Central Asian countries are clearly manifested by the interest the outside forces display to any particular country and its contribution to their organizations.

The above testifies that the multisided activity of the newly independent Central Asian states deserves scrutiny. This article will look at Uzbekistan.

System of Representatives Abroad

The system of Uzbekistans representatives abroad illustrates the major vectors and foreign-policy accents and strategy of Uzbekistan in general and of its multisided diplomacy in particular. The system is suffering from underfundingthe state has too many money-consuming problems, therefore the system provides a true picture of the republics preferences in its relations with international organizations.

It demonstrates that the U.N., NATO, OSCE, UNESCO, CIS, Central Asian Community, Economic Cooperation Organization, etc. are the main partners. The list alone points to Uzbekistans foreign-policy priorities.

Today, the republic is represented in two international organizations (the U.N. and NATO); in 1997 it was decided to open a republican agency at the U.N. branch and the international organizations quartered in Geneva. More often than not it is the ambassador to the country where the headquarters of this or that organization is found who plays the role of Uzbekistans representative.

The Uzbekistans office at the U.N. was opened in 1995; the republics mission at NATO consists of four people: the head also responsible for contacts with the European Union, since 1998 he has also become Uzbekistans ambassador to Belgium; an advisor; a first secretary-liaison officer in the city of Mons; and a third secretary. The republic pays particular attention to its relations with UNESCO, at which the Uzbekistans ambassador to France is accredited. The counselor of the Uzbekistans embassy in Austria is responsible for contacts with OSCE, while the ambassador to Iran is accredited at the Economic Cooperation Organization.

There are plans to set up four-member missions at the U.N. branch and other international organizations at Geneva: a representative, advisor attached to the WTO, another advisor and a third secretary. The office is expected to extend ties with international organizations stationed in Geneva.3

Cooperation with other alliances of the CIS type demands representations in their executive structures. For example, a delegate from Uzbekistan is one of the deputy-secretaries of the CIS Executive Committee. The relevant decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan says: He will be responsible for permanent and daily contacts designed to ensure organizational and technical aspects of the meetings of the Council of the Heads of State and the Council of the Heads of Government of the CIS; he will also be responsible for regular information about draft decisions and is working according to the rules endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers, the normative acts of the Council of the Heads of State and the Council of the Heads of Government of the CIS.4 The Department for Coordinating Foreign Economic Activity is responsible for the economic relationships between the CIS and the Central Asian Community. According to a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers it cooperates with the CIS Executive Secretary, the Executive Committee of the Inter-State Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Presidium of the Interstate Economic Council of the Economic Alliance.5

Uzbekistans Diplomatic Priorities

I have already written above that the U.N., OSCE, NATO and some other universal organizations backed by the United States and the West are high on Uzbekistans list of priorities. In fact this is quite natural: they are the backbone of the world system and the key link of the international community. There is no other alternative for a country wishing to develop and live in peace with the community of nations other than taking account of their organizations political biases. Our republic that is a transit area derives even more advantages out of such cooperation. In the political sphere this means: accelerated reforms with the help of these structures mechanism that will help alleviate certain negative factors of the period of transition. In the military sphere the republic will increase combat-worthiness of its armed forces; in the sphere of economy it will gain access to high technologies, investments, etc.

Uzbekistans diplomacy in relation to the U.N. is very indicative in this respect. First, there is a basic understanding of the U.N. key role in the world affairs. Second, there is a desire to acquire certain levers with which the republic can obtain desirable results. Therefore, when realizing its foreign-policy strategy and addressing tactical tasks, Uzbekistan, on the one hand, takes into account the changing realities and the desire of certain countries to become permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. This was behind Uzbekistans suggestions that Japan and Germany be elected permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. On the other, this position has shown that Uzbekistan still believes that the U.N. should preserve its leading role after certain reforms that are expected to boost its role and importance. There is an opinion that efficient mechanisms of peace enforcement, wider powers for the Secretary General, etc. will be the steps in the right direction.6

On the whole, Uzbekistan pays particular attention to the U.N. and OSCE and concentrates on the humanitarian issues.

From the very first days of its independence and until the terrorist acts of 11 September the Uzbek leaders were using the U.N. to attract the world communitys attention to the main regional issueinstability in Afghanistan and its consequences (export of terrorism and drug trafficking). The U.N. Rules offer wide possibilities rarely tapped in reality. Still, from the point of view of the leaders of Uzbekistan other worldwide organizations such as the OSCE and certain regional structures (the CIS, Central Asian Community, Economic Cooperation Organization, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) should coordinate their activities with what the U.N. corresponding structures are doing. In the wake of 11 September the republics leaders announced that the Afghan crisis (at the post-military operation stage) should be resolved under the U.N. aegis and with its cooperation.7

It was before the antiterrorist operation that Uzbekistan had used its participation in similar universal organizations to alert the world community to economic and military tasks and the need to preserve peace and order in the region that is unable to do it single-handedly for lack of an adequate potential. At that stage the U.N., OSCE and other organizations were formally cooperating to stem the threats emanating from Afghanistan. This was why the widely advertised 6 + 2 meeting under the U.N. aegis produced no tangible results: it mainly concentrated on the human rights monitoring and made empty declarations. The slack contacts were maintained on the level of Partnership for Peace, and within the GUUAM, CIS, and the Economic Cooperation Organization.

At first Russia, China and Iran joined ranks in the face of the threats coming from Afghanistan under the Taliban; they cooperated with the regional countries with a very limited aim of stemming similar trends on their territories. Contacts within the CIS, ECO, and the SCO became more active. In the wake of the events of 11 September the U.S. and other Western countries stepped up their antiterrorist efforts.

As the local Afghanistan-produced threats were developing from regional into global ones Central Asia was becoming an arena of fierce geopolitical rivalry. The antiterrorist coalition was a response to the huge wave of drugs and the Islamic example for all Muslim diasporas throughout Western Europe. The events of 11 September were the last drop. The antiterrorist coalition came into being.

So far, it is hard to forecast all the results of the Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan because the politics of the outside forces is fluid. Their strategy in the region is based on the local balance of forces in each of the countries and takes into consideration which of the lobbying groups and blocs proved to be more influential. The situation is developing under the influence of many factors such as lack of public consensus or potentially high financial expenses.

One is somewhat puzzled by contradictory and scarce information coming from Afghanistan: on the one hand, the U.S. government says that the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan will go on for at least 5 to 7 years. On the other, certain American officials say that the American military presence is temporal,8 but the Americans have no intention to leave Central Asia when the conflict in Afghanistan is completed, because they want to support the Central Asian countries in their desire to reform their economies and societies in the same way as they supported U.S. in the antiterrorist war. These are long-term relationships.9

Today, Western forces are actively operating in the region: the Americans are using the leased airfields of Khanabad and Kokaidy in Uzbekistan and Manas in Kyrgyzstan. Considerable material support was promised in the form of payments for the leased airfields and the use of air space (Uzbekistan was promised a sum of up to $150m).10 The Central Command of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Defense Ministry of Uzbekistan signed an agreement on military and military-technical cooperation for 2002 that envisages preparations for and reciprocal visits of the military of both countries.11 There is an agreement between the U.S. and Kazakhstan; the border guards of Tajikistan are receiving aid. Certain analysts12 write that the United States should closely cooperate with the local countries in the field of democratic values and the norms of coexistence. This will help create a regional security system and prevent further escalations of new challenges.

China that has acquired parts of the territories of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and strengthened its geopolitical presence in Central Asia is awakening to the local developments.

Russia is trying to regain what it has lostit announced that a military-political organization would be created on the basis of the Collective Security Treaty. At the same time Russia seems to have accepted the Western program in Central Asia and will continue cooperating with the West: this completely suits its current potentials. Today Moscow is obviously unable to give military guarantees and investments to the newly independent states in Central Asia. The United States and its NATO allies are willing to use the local ties and mechanisms that belong to Moscow and to exploit the popular idea of Russia as a reliable partner. This should not be taken to mean that the U.S. and allies will leave Central Asia: if they planned to do this they would not have poured money into the military bases in Central Asia and would not have allocated unheard-of investments. It would have been stupid to lose the region conveniently wedged between Russia, China and Iranthe United States and partners will do their best to entrench there by making the local elites their reliable allies. After a great deal of vacillations Russia opted for a pragmatic course of action having created the necessary environment to restore its economic potential without pouring much money into its CIS allies that are economically (and so far psychologically) prepared to cooperate with it.

The world leaders have obvious strategic interests in the region. Any force wishing to protect its interests has to join all sorts of organizations and alliances. In Central Asia the United States is using universal organizations to promote its interests: the U.N. and OSCE in the sphere of politics, Partnership for Peace in the military sphere and the IMF and WTO in economy. Several years ago a pro-Western bloc GUUAM was set up. The CIS, Eurasian Economic Community, and the Collective Security Treaty are pro-Russian structures, while the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and ECO are compromise organizations. What are their main development trends?

Despite internal contradictions and lack of confidence (on the one hand, there is rivalry between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; on the other, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan suspect Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan of expansionism), despite the rivalry among the outside forces for domination in the region (it is believed that the West relies on Uzbekistan while Russia and pro-Russian forces rely on Kazakhstan) the Central Asian countries still want to coordinate their actions. They are driven to such coordination by common threats, the geopolitical domination and economic interests. It goes without saying that the relations with its Central Asian neighbors are of strategic importance for Uzbekistan. At the same time political and especially cultural and historical factors create different levels of the local countries interest in regional cooperation, especially on the bilateral relations level. All countries, however, are equally interested in economic integration that will probably become a reliable basis for deeper relations in the spheres of politics, security, etc. I am convinced that the theory of neo-functionalism that looks at economic relationships as the key to deeper integration can be applied to Central Asia and will produce positive results.

The GUUAM is a vehicle of geopolitical dualism (the Atlantic and Eurasian biases). When the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan had started and especially when NATO at 20 had been established it became hard to predict the GUUAMs future. One thing is clear: it is a political alliance based on its members common approaches to global problems, the ways and methods of their settlement and the desire to find a niche in world politics. The transit and economic components figure prominently in what the GUUAM is doing. There is an opinion that the organization was prompted by domestic factors: identical conflicts in the countries and along their borders and similar economic problems. Experts believe that potential threats created by big actors and the desire to reap maximal profits out of this rivalry are the most important external factors. They will survive in future, too, therefore an analysis of the GUUAM activity should rely on the equilibrium theory that envisaged a balance of forces in the world and attaches special importance to the occasional play on the interests of other, larger, countries. I should say that the rumors about Ukraines desire to join the Eurasian Economic Community (that is a pro-Russian structure) as an observer and to withdraw (later) from the GUUAM as well as President Kuchmas statement that his country wants to join NATO and (later) the EU indicate that the play on the interests of other countries is one of the components of the policy pursued by the GUUAM members.

While the Central Asian Community and the GUUAM have brought together countries united by the common past the ECO is a mechanism that helps restore traditional foreign-political activities in the Central Asian countries. For this reason, its success or failure will prove (1) whether the members can preserve civilized relations and strengthen contacts, (2) whether the secular and Islamic states with the Muslim majority can cooperate and find common language. This organization is interesting in the cultural respect too, since it will demonstrate whether liberal ideas can survive in the Muslim environment. These are serious problems each of which deserves special research. The above analysis shows that the ECO was set up to address, and is concentrating mainly on, purely economic problems: trade, customs tariffs, communication networks, and more efficient use of raw materials. Cooperation within it may bring closer its members integration within the model of the functional theory of politics according to David Mitrany. This is conditioned by different political structures of the member countries, their different cultural and civilizational identities, and adherence to different Islamic trends. In an absence of such differences one could have studied this cooperation within the pluralistic conception of Karl Deutsch that looks at tolerance and loyalty toward values and norms of each of the members as an axiological basis. One can expect that the economic and social relationships will help establish tolerance and loyalty. Iran is most likely to develop such qualitiesit needs the ECO more than the others from political, geopolitical, and economic points of view.

The future of the CIS invites different opinionsits collapse was predicted more than once, yet the structure is still alive and demonstrating certain advantages. Its prospects depend on the extent Russia, as the key member, needs it. I believe that it will preserve its interest in the CISat least this can be deduced from the new variant of foreign-policy conception of Russia. The CIS may fall apart into regional or sub-regional blocs in which Moscow will defend its interests. It is more probable that the CIS will survive with more intensified organizational forms. From the point of view of Uzbekistan this will remain its strategic geopolitical interest with an economic bias. To resolve its own tactical political, economic, and geopolitical tasks Tashkent should remain within the CIS. Naturally enough, the theory of federalism of Amitai Etzioni is not applicable in this case.

Uzbekistan participated in the Dushanbe summit of the Shanghai Five as an observer and then joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June 2001 as a full-scale member. Some people expect that it will lobby American interests within this structure. I think that Russia will insist on decisions favoring the U.S. interests because for the time being the two countries have many geopolitical China-related interests in common. In this situation Uzbekistan will be free to act in the spirit of traditional geopolitics based on prolonged mutual mistrust that has exited and continues to exist between the White House and the Kremlin. This is a dignified role that leaves much space for maneuvering. In fact, Uzbekistan will probably find this organization the most efficient among all other regional organizations of which it is a member.


The antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan has somewhat altered the diplomatic environment for Uzbekistan. The old geopolitical confrontation between the Atlantic and Eurasian world (headed by the U.S.S.R. and then Russia) has been replaced with a new, so far vague, confrontation between the same forces (the Eurasian world is headed by China). The idea of Brzezinskis to prevent any single force from dominating this geopolitical space is still valid.13 This explains the U.S. more active role in the region. At the same time, Russia is slipping to the status of a regional power with certain geopolitical advantages in Central Asia that should not be ignored.

The Unites States possesses the following geopolitical instruments: military and economic might, mass culture, and liberal values that are willingly embraced by local societies, especially by the local elites. This creates a rather wide segment of pro-Western intellectuals. In these conditions Russia, acting together with the West, is strengthening its positions as a traditional vehicle of European values.

Even the less important actors (Tajikistan and especially Kyrgyzstan) also profit from the American and Western presence in Central Asia: they look at Washington and at Moscow (as before) as a shield against Kazakh and Uzbek domination. On the whole, the antiterrorist operation has given the local states a chance to close ranks so that to perform an economic, military, and political breakthrough. Objectively, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have a special role to playtheir positions and concerted efforts may turn the events to the worst or to the best.

An analysis of what the international organizations and alliances (of which Uzbekistan is a member) are doing has demonstrated that, on the one hand, each of them (with the exception of the Central Asian Community) is an instrument of outside forces. On the other, Uzbekistan uses its membership to address its economic and geopolitical tasks. Its multisided foreign policy allows it to preserve equilibrium and to balance between other forces. At the same time, its multisided involvement creates a need to quickly respond to outside impacts, which, in its turn, destabilizes its foreign policy to a certain extent.

It seems that the present course at military-political bilateral cooperation is correct. At the same time, cooperation within the NATO program and the CIS will go on if the latter retains its efficiency.

The economic side remains one of the key ones in all organizations mentioned above. This confirms theoretical conclusions and practical results obtained in other countries that say that economic contacts are inevitably followed by drawing closer in the political and humanitarian spheres. Indeed, the organization that started its life as a Central Asian Economic Community is now called the Central Asian Community. It was created in response to the clash of interests of the United States and other Western countries, Russia, Iran and China in the strategically important region and was an attempt at coordinated policies aimed at reaping advantages created by this rivalry.

One can even predict that the region will acquire another alliance dominated by China. The current situation (the number of alliances and their orientation) says that Russias influence is growing. To a great extent its influence is promoted by the threat of political Islam and the fact that a strong politician has come to power in Russia. The United States will obviously remain an active player in Central Asiathis is confirmed by the U.S. geostrategic tasks in relation to China and, probably, to Russia.

Uzbekistan plays an important role in the foreign policies of many countries. Its importance is demonstrated by regional organizations in which each of the members will be defending their own interests. In these conditions Uzbekistan has to improve its foreign policy, to make it more balanced and to concentrate on integration within the Central Asian Community. To let the chance of performing a breakthrough into the 21st century slip between our fingers and leave the favorable worldwide situation untapped will be a gross mistake.

1 The theory is also known as a doctrine of a new world order. American geopolitical scientists had been working on its since the 1970s while it was first publicly declared by U.S. President George Bush Sr. during the Gulf War of 1991 (see: A. Dugin, Osnovy geopolitiki, Moscow, 2000).
2 See: Robertsonn lobt Zusammenarbeit der NATO mit ZentralasienErste Zusammenfassung [].
3 See: Decision by the Cabinet of Ministers (No. 2 of 6 January, 1997) Ob otkrytii postoiannogo predstavitelstva Respubliki Uzbekistan pri otdelenii OON i drugikh mezhdunarodnykh organizatsiiakh v g. Zheneve, in: Postanovlenia Kabineta ministrov Respubliki Uzbekistan, ianvar 1997.
4 Decision by the Cabinet of Ministers (No. 247 of 2 February, 1999) O reglamente Kabineta ministrov Respubliki Uzbekistan, in: Postanovlenia Kabineta ministrov Respubliki Uzbekistan, fevral 1999, p. 135.
5 Decision by the Cabinet of Ministers (No. 55 of 8 February, 1999) Ob utverzhdenii polozhenia o departamente po koordinatsii vneshneekonomicheskoi deiatelnosti, in: Postanovlenia Kabineta ministrov Respubliki Uzbekistan, fevral 1999, p. 190.
6 See: Diplomaticheskaia panorama, No. 9, 2000, pp. 14-15.
7 I.A. Karimov, Dlia nas net inoi tseli, krome interesov nashego naroda, nashei Rodiny, Pravda Vostoka, 7 December, 2001.
8 SshA ne planiruiut dolgovremennogo prisutstvia v Tsentalnoi Azii [].
9 Politika SshA v Tsentralnoi Azii 17 Dekabria 2001 [htpp://usinfo.state.gove].
10 See: V. Kiyver, Interesy SshA v Tsentralnoi Azii, Nemetskaia volna [].
11 [].
12 For example, M.B. Olcott, see: [].
13 See: Z. Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Basic Books, New York, 1997, p. 148.

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