Russia lambasts OSCE election watchdog

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Moscow, Feb 1 (UNI) Russia today hit out at the election watchdog of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), accusing it of attempts to sabotage the plans for a common monitoring approach during the upcoming presidential election.

''Recently, we have witnessed the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) trying to politicise this issue again through its official representative and sow doubts concerning Russia's readiness to accomplish its duties. I would like to emphasise that we are fulfilling our obligations to the utmost,'' Russian Foreign Ministry's representative Sergei Ryabkov said at a news conference.

He reiterated that Russia was expecting 70 observers to arrive from the OSCE by February 28-- three days before the election scheduled for March 2.

Mr Ryabkov stressed the OSCE should unify the approach to elections in all the countries to avoid such situations, pointing out that Russia was not creating obstacles for international observers to monitor the election and encouraged the OSCE to work together with it.

Russia's sharp reaction comes after OSCE's request to increase the number of observers for the election.

Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) today invited the head of the OSCE's election watchdog to hold talks in Moscow next week to discuss the starting date for monitoring the election.

The CEC earlier set a quota for observers from the ODIHR at 70 and fixed the date of their arrival in the country for February 27-28.

There were 400 OSCE monitors for the presidential election in Russia in 2004.

UNI XC SKB MIR KP1836

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