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US Calls on Azerbaijan to Insure Transparency of Post-Electoral Process - 2003-10-16


The United States is urging authorities in Azerbaijan to follow through on promises for transparency in the vote-count from Wednesday's critical presidential election in the Central Asian country.

The United States had spent more than $2 million to support a free election process in Azerbaijan including funds for 150 international observers for the polling and subsequent vote-count.

In a statement only hours after the polls closed, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said initial indications were that the voting went smoothly with no reports of violence.

But he expressed regret that Azerbaijani groups receiving foreign assistance were not allowed to join individual Azeris and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and other organizations in observing the polling.

Mr. Boucher urged leaders in Baku to make good on promises that the post-election process would meet international standards for fairness and transparency. "We call on Azerbaijani authorities," he said, "to follow-through on their commitments to provide observers with access to the vote-tabulation process, to post election results within 48 hours, to publicize penalties for electoral fraud, to act promptly against any fraud detected, and to fulfill its responsibilities for the safe-guarding of its citizens and their rights."

Mr. Boucher said U.S. officials expect a preliminary statement on the election process Thursday from the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

The United States had described the voting was "critical" to Azerbaijan's democratic development, and during the campaign, the State Department made repeated expressions of concern over reports of harassment and violence against opposition and human rights activists.

Longtime Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev had been considered likely to win another term in office. But Mr. Aliyev, who is hospitalized in the United States for heart and kidney ailments, dropped out of the race earlier this month in favor of his son, Ilham, who he had named the country's prime minister in August and was also a presidential candidate.

Opposition politicians in Baku condemned the move, though the United States registered no objection, noting that the younger Mr. Aliyev was confirmed by parliament as prime minister and that his nomination was consistent with the Azerbaijani constitution, as amended in a national referendum last year.

Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the election, among other issues, when he met Ilham Aliyev in New York three weeks ago on he sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

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