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Uzbek President Calls For Free And Fair Elections

2 December 2004 -- Uzbek President Islam Karimov today said that Uzbekistan'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. 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 said.

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 come a 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 held in an undemocratic atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said today that it will send observers to monitor the elections.

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

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

(RFE/RL/BBC Monitoring)

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