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Uzbek President Calls For Free, Fair Elections


http://gdb.rferl.org/6325CD66-D984-48BA-B77F-F233D039A730_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/6325CD66-D984-48BA-B77F-F233D039A730_mw800_mh600.jpg Uzbek President Karimov (file photo) 2 December 2004 -- Uzbek President Islam Karimov told the national parliament today that the country's 26 December parliamentary elections should be free and transparent.

"The forthcoming [parliamentary] elections should, primarily, be fully in line with the principles envisaged in the constitution, the election laws, and regulations," Karimov said. "The elections must be unbiased and fair and should be held in a free, transparent, and open way, without any pressure or influence from the outside. In a word, they must demonstrate our electorate's free will. I think that all of you will support me on this, and we all are responsible for this."

Karimov's call came at the opening of the 16th session of Uzbekistan's parliament in Tashkent. He said the elections should be held in cooperation with all international observers.

Karimov's remarks came one day after a group of Uzbek rights activists picketed outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital, urging U.S. officials to pay attention to the elections, which protesters say will be conducted in an undemocratic atmosphere.

None of Uzbekistan's opposition parties are directly participating in the parliamentary vote.

The Erk (Freedom) and Ozod Dehkonlar (Free Peasants) opposition parties have called for a local and international boycott of the vote, saying government interference has predetermined the results.

(RFE/RL)
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