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Azerbaijani President Plays Down Criticism Of Elections

President Aliyev (file photo) (AFP) Baku, 7 November 2005  (RFE/RL) --  Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has acknowledged some irregularities in  yesterday's parliamentary elections, but is playing down criticism from the country's opposition and international observers.

Speaking on state television today, Aliyev said violations in polling had occurred in only a small number of districts. And he said his government will take serious steps to address shortcomings.

Partial esults of the election show his ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party remains by far the majority party. However, the United States today expressed backing for the findings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE's) observer mission, which found the vote beset by irregularities.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said there were "major irregularities and fraud" that are of "serious concern": "Those instances of fraud and reports of major irregularity need to be investigated. They need to be investigated pursuant to Azerbaijani laws and regulations and in ways that redress grievances of people participating peacefully in the political system. That is an important responsibility of any country that is committed to democracy and the rule of law and the rights of its citizens."

Ereli also said the United States is urging that all demonstrations in connection with the vote be peaceful.

(international agencies, RFE/RL Washington correspondent)

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