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Kazakhstan Issues Money Marking OSCE Chair

ASTANA -- The Kazakh National Bank today issued a banknote dedicated to the country's 2010 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

A commemorative 1,000-tenge ($6.74) bill features the national emblem, a decorative pattern of flying birds, and a holographic image of the Baiterek monument in the capital, Astana.

The reverse side shows the presidential palace, Akorda, and a bird with the 2010 inscription. The bank said it has issued 10 million of the banknotes.

Kazakhstan took over the 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 critics say reforms have been cosmetic.

Human rights organizations say Kazakhstan is unfit to lead an organization devoted to promoting democracy. Among others they cited the case of activist Yevgeny Zhovtis -- the director of the nongovernmental Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights who was sentenced in September to four years in jail for involvement in a deadly traffic accident -- saying it was politically motivated.

Kazakhstan, the first ex-Soviet republic to assume the OSCE chairmanship, has never held an election judged free and fair by Western monitoring organizations.

The lower house of Kazakhstan's parliament contains the members of just one party, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan.