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By Astghik Bedevian
Armenia’s government questioned the impartiality of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe before formally asking it to monitor the approaching parliamentary elections, it emerged on Friday.

The administration of President Robert Kocharian had taken issue with the OSCE’s highly critical assessment of its handling of the last presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2003. The findings of the mainly Western observers acting under the OSCE aegis gave weight to opposition allegations of massive vote rigging.

Kocharian exposed his government’s discontent with their activities on Friday when he said official Yerevan has sought assurances that the OSCE mission deployed for the May 12 parliamentary elections will not be a “tool” in the hands of unspecified external powers.

“We always intended to invite observers,” he said. “We just wanted to negotiate and make sure the observer mission is free of various political pressures and does not cater for various political interests.”

“This is our goal, and I think we have had held quite effective negotiations and reached agreements with the OSCE leadership,” added Kocharian.

Reports in the Armenian press late last year said official Yerevan is trying to make sure that the OSCE mission is not headed by U.S. or British officials and includes more representatives of France and Russia, countries that have been less critical of the Kocharian administration’s democracy record. The head of the mission, Boris Frlec, comes from the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia.

Frlec told RFE/RL that he has discussed Yerevan’s concerns with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. “Mr. Oskanian expressed the wish of the Armenian side that the election observation mission should be, as far the national composition is concerned, as broad as possible,” he said.

“In the [mission’s] core team, including long-term observers, 24 different nations are represented among 40 people,” argued Frlec. “In addition to that, countries of the OSCE responded to the call of the [OSCE’s] Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and sent 300 short-term observers that cover an extremely wide spectrum of different nationalities.”

(Photolur photo: Boris Frlec.)
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