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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Rewards Almaty, Boosting Aid Package

WASHINGTON -- President Bill Clinton pledged $396 million in new U.S. economic assistance to Kazakhstan to help the former Soviet republic to move to a market economy and dismantle its nuclear weapons.

Clinton, at a news conference with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, made the pledge after Nazarbayev handed over papers documenting Kazakhstan's agreement to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The two leaders also signed a charter on democratic partnership providing for improved economic relations between their two countries.

Clinton raised the aid figure from $91 million last year to $311 million this year economic assistance to Kazakhstan to help the country move toward a market economy.

And he said he was prepared to extend another $85 million to help Kazakhstan dismantle a nuclear arsenal left on its territory after the collapse of the Soviet empire two years ago.

Kazakhstan is the third former Soviet republic to which Clinton has pledged additional U.S. aid in the past month in an effort to coax them into giving up Cold War nuclear arsenals.

When the Soviet empire collapsed two years ago, the Kazakhs found themselves with 1,400 warheads and 104 intercontinental missiles. They have given up most of them and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The country has environmental troubles and many people have health problems from 470 nuclear test explosions conducted during Soviet rule.

Washington believes Kazakhstan has made more progress on economic and political reform than most, if not all, of the other former Soviet states.

Nazarbayev, the last republican president to declare independence as the Soviet Union spun towards disintegration in 1991, still cracks down on dissent and controls the press.

But his policies have brought relative stability and drawn more Western and Asian businessmen to Kazakhstan.

Many oil executives see Kazakhstan as the next Kuwait. More than 60 U.S. firms have set up in Almaty, as well as international giants including South Korea's Daewoo and Germany's Mercedes-Benz.