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Kazakh Leader Rejects Referendum to Extend His Rule

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev speaks at European Union headquarters in Brussels, Oct 26, 2010.

Kazakhstan's long-time ruler has rejected a motion from parliament to extend his rule through a referendum, rather than through a scheduled election.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a decree Friday rejecting the initiative that could have allowed the popular president to continue to rule unchallenged until 2020.

The U.S. Embassy in Almaty strongly disapproved of the proposal, saying it would be a "setback for democracy in Kazakhstan."

Mr. Nazarbayev has ruled the former Soviet state for the past 20 years.

His supporters celebrate him for bolstering Kazakhstan's economy with investments in energy and development. But his critics accuse him of clamping down on human rights and democracy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.