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OSCE Head Urges Democratic Vote In Kyrgyzstan --> Rupel (center) with Bakiev (right) at one of several recent meetings 18 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, today called on Kyrgyzstan to ensure that the scheduled 10 July presidential election is free and fair.

Rupel made his remarks after meeting with Kyrgyz interim President Kurmanbek Bakiev and parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebaev in the capital Bishkek.

Rupel said the OSCE has high expectations concerning Kyrgyzstan's upcoming presidential balloting.

"Of course everybody expects the [Kyrgyz presidential] elections of the 10th of July to be much better than any elections in the past, maybe, as one of my interlocutors today has said, the best elections of Central Asia," Rupel said.

It is Rupel's second visit to Kyrgyzstan in less than a month. He was there at the end of March in an effort to help stabilize the situation after President Askar Akaev was ousted on 24 March.

Allegations by the opposition of fraudulent elections were at the heart of the discontent and protests that led to Akaev's ouster.

Rupel also announced that he discussed a joint OSCE-Kyrgyz "workplan to help the country maintain stability," according to the OSCE website.

"The workplan we have developed together with the Kyrgyz authorities focuses on such short-term priority areas as maintaining law and order, election assistance, media freedom, and business development," he said, according to the website. Rupel added that a longer-term plan would deal with issues like "rule of law, education, borders and cross-border cooperation, as well as economic development."

Rupel is due to have talks with leaders in Tajikistan tomorrow and in Turkmenistan on 20 April.