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Melia: U.S. In 'Stern Conversations' With Azerbaijan

A U.S. State Department official says the United States has engaged in "stern conversations" with Azerbaijani officials about crackdowns on rights organizations in the Caucasus country.

Thomas Melia, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said U.S. officials have been emphasizing in conversations with Azerbaijan that recent harassment of international and Azerbaijani nongovernmental organizations is "unacceptable."

Speaking to "Current Time," a joint television production of RFE/RL and VOA, on the sidelines of the Forum 2000 event in Prague this week, Melia said the United States has been telling Azerbaijan's government the "key to longer-term stability and prosperity is citizen participation in public affairs."

Melia said the same message is sent to Uzbekistan when U.S. officials meet with representatives from that Central Asian country.

Melia said Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan would ensure a better future for their countries by being more inclusive and tolerant.

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