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West calls for stronger OSCE, slams Russia over observers

posted by FerrasB on November, 2007 as FREEDOM & FEAR

Publication time: 29 November 2007, 18:00
A top U.S. official on Wednesday accused Russia of working to weaken the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and in particular its election-monitoring mission.

"We're worried about the future of the organization because there is an assault from some quarters on the integrity of the OSCE and on its major missions, particularly the ODIHR election observation function," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told a press conference before the OSCE's ministerial council meeting in Madrid on Thursday and Friday.

Describing the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or ODIHR as "one of the great success stories of the OSCE," Burns said the "United States will oppose every move to weaken the ODIHR."

He named Russia as being the "the author" of proposals to change the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and warned that countries such as Uzbekistan, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which supported Moscow, might have to face the consequences of such a stance.

Burns' remarks followed allegations last weekend by Russian leader Vladimir Putin that the United States was to blame for a decision by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe not to monitor upcoming Russian parliamentary elections Sunday. He challenged the Russian leader to back up the claim.

"This allegation made by President Putin the other day is completely unfounded, it's untrue," said Burns.

"It's preposterous to assert that somehow the United States government and the State Department counseled ODIHR not to monitor those elections," he added.

"It was interesting to note that in the statement that he made, President Putin said he had some information. Well, he should divulge that information, because it's untrue," Burns said.

The remarks were among the strongest from the United States since Putin made the allegations. Putin had claimed the absence of monitors was intended to help cast doubt on the credibility of voting that is expected to bolster his power.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe election monitoring office announced on Nov. 16 its decision not to send an observer mission to monitor the election. The monitoring organization said Moscow had taken too long to issue visas and had created other obstacles to effective election monitoring, including restricting the size of the mission to 70 people. Far more observers would have been needed, the organization said.

Russia's Sergey Lavrov is among 45 foreign ministers and other delegates expected to attend the meeting in Madrid. Burns said the U.S. would hold talks with the Russian delegation.

The meeting, which wraps up Spain's yearlong presidency, is also scheduled to debate Russia's plans to suspend cooperation on the Conventional Arms in Europe Treaty next month.

Delegates will also discuss whether to extend the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission in Kosovo, which expires at the end of the year. The issue is affected by uncertainty over Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

Other issues on the agenda include a possible future Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Afghanistan and Kazakhstan's candidacy to hold the organization's presidency after Finland next year.

The 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, made up of countries from Europe, Central Asia and North America, deals primarily with preventing conflicts, observing elections, managing crises and rehabilitating post-conflict areas. It operates by consensus, and its decisions are politically influential but not legally binding.

Source: Agencies

Kavkaz Center

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