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US Appeals for End to Violence, Calls for Talks to Resolve Kyrgyzstan Election Crisis

The United States Tuesday urged all parties in the political crisis in Kyrgyzstan to refrain from violence and engage in dialogue to resolve their differences. U.S. officials say mob violence is not helping the case of government opponents protesting alleged fraud in recent parliamentary elections.

The public protests in Kyrgyzstan are drawing comparisons to post-election demonstrations that led to sweeping democratic change in Ukraine and Georgia.

But officials here say firebomb attacks and other acts of violence being attributed to anti-government protesters in Kyrgyzstan were not observed elsewhere and are "detracting" from the opposition's message.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli reiterated a State Department appeal, first made Sunday, for the government and opposition to refrain from violence and engage in dialogue to resolve differences stemming from the elections peacefully.

He said it is "critical" that the government of President Askar Akayev address alleged election irregularities in ways that are transparent and legal.

He said the United States is pressing the government and opposition to meet as soon as possible to resolve election differences within the framework of the Central Asian country's constitution.

The spokesman said the United States "unequivocally" condemns acts of violence being attributed to opposition activists, who he said should otherwise be allowed to express their views freely.

"Nothing that I've said should be read as reservations on people's rights to express their opinion, and assemble and demonstrate," he said. "The point here is that it's not a license to take over government buildings, and destroy government buildings and engage in violent clashes. You can make your point of view known without resorting to violence, and that's what needs to happen in Kyrgyzstan."

Official results from the two rounds of elections that ended March 13 showed the opposition candidate winning only a handful of seats in parliament, spawning protests and prompting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, to say the vote was marred by "significant shortcomings."

Spokesman Ereli noted that President Akayev, who has run the former Soviet republic since its independence, has directed the country's Central Election Commission and Supreme Court to investigate the contested election results.

He called that an "important step" and said the United States looks forward to seeing the country's institutions act on those instructions, while both sides in the dispute refrain from further violence.

Asked why the United States was not urging a new election, as it did last year in the case of Ukraine, Mr. Ereli said there must first be an investigation, ideally involving the OSCE, on the scope of the irregularities. He said such an inquiry must be conducted in an environment untainted by "pressure, coercion, and violence."

A senior diplomat who spoke to reporters here said it is not clear to U.S. officials that the extent of vote fraud in Kyrgyzstan is comparable to that of Ukraine, and sufficient to require a "wholesale rejection" of the election results.

He said while such a determination might eventually be made, that is not where the "indications lean" at present.

In the meantime, the U.S. diplomat said, there is an "element of mob action" in Kyrgyzstan that was not seen in Ukraine, and which he said "detracts from" the opposition message."