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The ten Middle Eastern and Central Asian member states of the Iran-based Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) have approved the establishment of an ECO-sponsored science foundation.

The ECO council of foreign ministers made the announcement last week (20 October) at their annual meeting in Herat, Afghanistan.

The foundation will be based in Islamabad, Pakistan, with satellite bases at various science and technology organisations in ECO member countries — Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The foundation aims to coordinate and promote science cooperation and development in the region, funding joint research projects, promoting improved science education and training, and publishing a quarterly scientific bulletin.

They will also assess technology needs of member countries, and act as a hub for technology transfer and knowledge exchange in the region.

"Any initiative to promote cooperation among any of the 57-member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference for strengthening of science and technology is a welcome step," said Anwar Nasim, president of the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations, adding that there is a particular need to organise more scientific activities in Central Asian states.

The 2008 meeting of the council of foreign ministers and the ECO summit will be held in Pakistan.