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Kazakh President Hails Country's Progress

Astana, 18 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev delivered his annual state-of-the-nation address today, praising both himself and the government's leadership in fostering social and political advancement.

Addressing a joint session of parliament, Nazarbaev said Kazakh authorities are ensuring freedom of religion while at the same time fighting religious extremism.

He also said that Kazakhstan is cracking down on corruption and organized crime.

Nazarbaev praised the government -- and himself -- for what he called rapid social and political progress in the past decade.

Nazarbaev's address was interrupted for about 35 minutes due to a reported power outage.

His speech came the same week that the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed concerns about the state of democracy in Kazakhstan.

(with local television reports)

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