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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (file photo) (RFE/RL)
WASHINGTON, April 26, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, has defended the development of democracy in his country, saying it is no worse than in any other country in his region.
Aliyev said Azerbaijanis enjoy all the freedoms of citizens of any democracy.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Aliyev acknowledged that Azerbaijan is still working to improve its democratic institutions, but urged his audience to "look at the neighborhood."
"There is a reality and there is a perception. When you concentrate on perception and some information not quite reflecting the reality, then you have one impression," he said. "When you look [at] what the country is, how it develops, what people think, then maybe you have another [perception]."
Aliyev will meet U.S. President George W. Bush on April 28.
He said he expected the talks would cover a wide range of topics, from democratic development in Azerbaijan to the Iran nuclear crisis.