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Azerbaijani Authorities Reject Criticism of Election Preparations

Authorities in Azerbaijan have rejected criticism by international human rights groups of preparations for Sunday's parliamentary elections

A spokesman for the office of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said the groups had failed to take into account measures he introduced last week to prevent voting fraud and permit more effective monitoring of the vote.

The Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Human Rights Watch had criticized preparations for the vote. Human Rights Watch, in its report Monday, said the Azerbaijani government has virtually precluded free and fair elections. It documented campaign restrictions and various forms of voter intimidation, including beatings and mass arrests.

Meanwhile, election officials have agreed to allow voters to use Soviet-era documents as proof of identity. Some Muslim women had refused on religious grounds to obtain new documents because this required being photographed without headscarves.

Some information for this report provided by AP.