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Power Cut Halts Kazakh President's Annual Address

President Nazarbaev (file photo) Astana, 18 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's annual state-of-the-nation address was interrupted today when the lights went out, forcing a half-hour interruption in the live televised event before the speech was resumed.

Kazakh television stations that were broadcasting the address switched to running documentaries for over 30 minutes while workers at the new parliament building fixed the lighting system.

Nazarbaev then continued his speech, which in its early stages touched on planned political reforms.

This week, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed concerns about the state of democracy in Kazakhstan.

OSCE and EU officials said that a new Kazakh draft law on fighting extremism could infringe on basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. They also expressed concern over a Kazakh court's recent decision to liquidate an opposition party, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan.

(with local television reports)