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Kazakh President Calls For OSCE Summit In Astana

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev delivers his speech in Astana.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev delivers his speech in Astana.
ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev today called for the first Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit of heads of state in 11 years to be held in Astana, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Nazarbaev said during his annual televised address to the nation at a joint session of parliament that many of the 56 OSCE members supported his idea of a 2010 summit in Astana. He said topics such as regional security, the situation in Afghanistan, and questions of tolerance would be discussed.

The last such summit of heads of state was held in Istanbul in 1999.

Nazarbaev also spoke about the post-economic-crisis period that currently exists in Kazakhstan and said scholarships and public-sector salaries will be increased starting on April 1.

He gave his address once in Russian and a second time in the Kazakh language.

Kazakhstan took over the yearlong OSCE chairmanship from Greece in January.

When bidding for the OSCE chair, Kazakhstan promised to liberalize its laws on elections, the media, and political parties to bring them closer to democratic standards. But human rights organizations said the changes made were mostly cosmetic and that Kazakhstan is unfit to lead an organization devoted to promoting democracy.

Kazakhstan, the first ex-Soviet republic to assume the OSCE chairmanship, has never held an election judged free and fair by Western observers. The lower house of Kazakhstan's parliament contains the members of just one party, Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan.