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LAWMAKERS FAIL IN BID TO REMOVE COMMUNIST LEADER FROM OFFICE

Lawmakers failed Friday in an attempt to remove the hard-line communist president from office, and four other former Soviet republics said they would send troops to Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan.

The gathering crisis in Tajikistan has raised concerns that unrest could spread to other Central Asian republics.Fighting between supporters and opponents of President Rakhmon Nabiyev reportedly eased Friday in the southern city of Kurgan-Tyube. More than 100 people reportedly have been killed there in violence that broke out after the Cabinet and senior lawmakers on Wednesday demanded Nabiyev's resignation.

They say that Nabiyev, a hard-line communist, has not moved fast enough to introduce political and religious freedoms, and has failed to curb tribal violence.

Meanwhile, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan agreed to send troops to Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan to stop the smuggling of arms and drugs into the Commonwealth of Independent States, Igor Romanov, spokesman for the Kazakh government, said in a telephone interview from Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan.

The commonwealth has long been concerned about arms and drug trafficking across the border, and the unrest in Tajikstan has only increased those worries.

In a strongly worded statement, the four countries said "southern borders of the commonwealth must not be violated.

"The escalation of the civil war in the republic, which is threatening the security of our nations and upsetting the political stability in the region, must not be permitted," the statement said.

Tajikistan's special legislative session today was aimed at forcing Nabiyev's resignation, but the parliament could not muster the necessary two-thirds quorum; only 80 of the 230 deputies attended.

The lawmakers will try again on Saturday.