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Azerbaijan Says U.S. Criticism of Elections Is ‘Unacceptable’

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry rejected as “unacceptable” U.S. criticism of the Caspian Sea nation’s Oct. 9 presidential election that gave incumbent candidate Ilham Aliyev another five-year term.

“This approach brings into question the sincerity of the U.S. in its relations with Azerbaijan,” the ministry said today on its website. “Being fully biased and unacceptable, it also amounts to disrespect for Azeri citizens who freely expressed their will in the election,” the ministry said.

Aliyev, 51, won a third term with 84.6 percent of the votes, the Central Election Commission in Baku said yesterday. Camil Hasanli, the candidate backed by opposition parties, got 5.5 percent and eight other contenders divided up the remaining ballots.

Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the Department of State, yesterday said that the U.S. agreed with an assessment by the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that the elections “fell short of international standards” and were undermined by “serious shortcomings.”

“The United States urges the government of Azerbaijan to respect the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and speech,” Harf said in a statement.

Azerbaijan, the largest oil producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia and Kazakhstan, is a U.S. ally, handling 30 percent of all non-military shipments to Afghanistan. The Muslim nation of 9 million between Russia and Iran also operates the only non-Russian outlet of Caspian oil to Europe.

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