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Azerbaijan: Authorities Give Opposition Permission To Rally

Baku, 18 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - Baku city authorities gave official permission today to opposition parties in Azerbaijan to hold street rallies in the capital this Sunday -- one week after similar demonstrations were broken up by police force.

Our correspondent in Baku says President Heydar Aliyev's Yeni Azerbaijan party is also scheduled to hold a rally in Baku -- one day before the opposition rallies are scheduled. The opposition is trying to force the government to introduce changes to the election process, prior to next month's presidential elections in Azerbaijan.

Anne Johnson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, told RFE/RL yesterday that the United States condemns the use of force against peaceful demonstrators. Johnson urged both sides to refrain from violence during the weekend gatherings.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed the U.S. concern at the Azerbaijani police's forceful breakup of the opposition demonstration last weekend. Several people were injured in the clashes and scores more detained. The government has said it was provoked by the demonstrators and therefore justified in breaking up the rally.