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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tajik Assembly Seeks End to Civil War

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- The parliament of war-torn Tajikistan met for the first time since the outbreak of civil war Thursday, bringing a glimmer of hope for peace after a bloody yearlong conflict.

The parliament session was held under heavy security with armored vehicles in the streets, testimony to the fact that opposition troops still occupy the mountainous east of this small Central Asian country.

The session was attended mainly by legislators sympathizing with the current government. But also present was Akbarsho Iskanderov, the joint leader of a coalition government of Democratic and Islamic parties that held power from September to November 1992, before being forcibly deposed.

Iskanderov's presence offered the first sign that the government and opposition were ready to cross the battle lines and talk.

He said in an interview that he believed his presence at the session was a sign of democratic change in Tajikistan and that he did not feel under threat.

"We invited everybody without taking into consideration their ideas or party affiliation", said First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Abdulmadzhid Dostiyev.

In another hopeful sign, the first 500 refugees to return to Dushanbe from the eastern Pamir mountains arrived in the capital as the parliament session opened, according to Liviu Botha, a United Nations official.

Debate at the session was mainly calm, as deputies restricted themselves to a discussion of the economy, which has collapsed in the course of the war.

But the present government's interior minister, Yakub Salimov, 34, accused some deputies of inciting the war and declared that: "We are discussing economic difficulties while the blood of our sons is still flowing".

Another member of the deposed government, Asliddin Sokhibnazarov, was pessimistic about the chances for rapprochement because the government had expressed no new initiatives for negotiations between troops still in the field.

Referring to opposition fighters who have taken refuge in Afghanistan, he said, "These groups may be small, but we need to consider their claims and answer them".