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Kazakh Leader Pleads Case For OSCE Chairmanship

President Nazarbaev in December, after his successful campaign for a new term (epa) June 12, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev today defended his country's bid to assume the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009.

Addressing an OSCE-sponsored conference on promoting understanding among cultures, faiths, and ethnic groups that opened in Almaty, Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan represents a beacon of stability in Central Asia.

He said such a role puts his country in a good position to lead the 55-member organization.

“Which objectives do we see for ourselves in the capacity of OSCE leader?" Nazarbaev asked. "I will list the main ones. First, the international community recognizes that Kazakhstan, which is conducting a policy that one could describe as investing in Central Asia’s stability, is a guarantor of regional security.”

Nazarbaev also said taking over the OSCE chairmanship would enhance Kazakhstan’s importance “as a bridge between the East and the West” and offer countries of the former Soviet bloc a forum where their voices would be better heard.

Finally, Nazarbaev said that assuming the OSCE leadership would help his country become “one of the 50 most competitive nations in the world.” Nazarbaev, who was reelected in a landslide vote in December that international groups considered flawed, has made that competitiveness pledge part of his declared agenda in speeches to his country of about 15 million.

Kazakhstan's chairmanship bid is expected to be examined in the coming months.

Critics argue that Kazakhstan's human rights record is too poor to allow it to lead an organization that is committed to promoting democracy and defending fundamental freedoms.

(RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, Interfax-Kazakhstan, Kazinform)