DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) _ Security guards discovered a bomb in central Dushanbe shortly before the start of New Year's Eve celebrations, but were able to defuse it before festivities began, the Tajik Interior Minister said Saturday.

The 17-pound TNT device had been hidden in a stand of trees alongside City Hall, just 55 yards from the main square where the biggest celebration, attended by the prime minister and other several Cabinet members, was being held.

The bomb was discovered at 11 p.m. Interior Minister Sundin Sharipov said an explosion was narrowly averted. Authorities were trying to determine who planted the bomb.

Tajikistan remains restive despite a 1997 peace agreement that ended a five-year civil war between the hard-line government and mostly Islamic opposition. Many opposition warlords and ex-government officers oppose the peace deal, and outbreaks of violence are frequent.