DUSHANBE, January 26, Asia-Plus – The Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) of former Soviet republics gathered Wednesday in St. Petersburg to admit Uzbekistan and discuss energy, customs and currency issues.

The five members of EAEC agreed to admit Uzbekistan into the organization, which already includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the leader of Kazakhstan, said the admission could help make EAEC one of the most influential organizations in the world. He said the organization had 

EAEC representatives also indicated the need to move toward a customs union by signing agreements that would introduce common customs tariffs by 2007.

"We cannot let mutual trade terms be aggravated, therefore our governments should work out a common customs tariff," said Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.  Lukashenko also suggested that 80% of customs tariffs should be made uniform for all the union members by January 1, 2007.

Nazarbayev agreed with Lukashenko and also praised the agreement that Kazakhstan and Russia had signed recently to open a Eurasian Development Bank with $1.5 billion in authorized capital and branches in St. Petersburg and Kazakhstan''s Alma-Ata.

"This bank will help expand trade and economic ties and implement investment projects and programs," he said.

The bank is seen as a way to pour investment into joint EAEC projects and help create an integrated currency market, on which EAEC members signed an agreement Wednesday.

"The agreement is designed to expand the use of national currencies in the foreign economic projects of EAEC countries," Putin said.