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Polish Awards For Azerbaijani Officials Attacked

BAKU -- Poland's decision last week to award a number of Azerbaijani officials with Poland's highest orders has provoked critical reactions both there and in Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski on October 17 presented Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and National Security Ministry head Eldar Mahmudov with the Officer Grand Cross.

Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Energy and Industry Minister Natiq Aliyev received the Medal of Commander Grand Cross.

Isa Qambar, the head of the oldest Azerbaijani opposition party, Musavat, told RFE/RL that Poland has honored an authoritarian regime out of political and economic considerations.

Pawel Wosik, director of the Eastern Foundation in Poland and coordinator of the eastern program at the Forum of Young Diplomats, told RFE/RL that he received "this information with embarrassment and disbelief."

"The awarded ministers are part of the regime that acts against the democratic opposition and independent media," Wosik said.

The Polish presidential press office supplied RFE/RL with a written statement about the honors.

"During official visits of presidents, it is a common and globally accepted practice to award state decorations to distinguished individuals who contributed to developing relations between certain countries," the statement reads.