US Disappointed By Azerbaijan Vote Seeks Probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters)–The US State Department said on Tuesday it was "deeply disappointed” by Azerbaijan’s presidential election and called for an investigation into allegations of voter intimidation and ballot-box stuffing.

However–State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington would work with the government of Ilham Aliyev–who was elected on Oct. 15 to succeed his ailing father Haydar Aliyev as president of the oil-rich country.

In a written statement–Ereli described a series of "serious deficiencies” in the election–including the lack of a level playing field–police violence in the pre-election period–and partisan election commissions.

"Observers witnessed serious irregularities–including inaccurate voter lists leading to the denial of eligible voters the right to vote–voter intimidation–and ballot-box stuffing,” Ereli added. "Observers also reported serious irregularities in vote counting and tabulation. These problems cast doubt on the credibility of the election’s results.

"The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned that the October 15–2003–presidential election in Azerbaijan failed to meet international standards,” the spokesman added.

"The United States will work with President-elect Ilham Aliyev and his government–but we believe that Azerbaijan’s leadership missed an important opportunity to advance democratization by holding a credible election,” he said–adding Washington wanted "an immediate–independent–thorough and transparent investigation of all election violations.”

Ereli also repeated US concerns about what appeared to be a wave of politically motivated arrests over the weekend. Police arrested hundreds of opposition supporters and armed men reportedly hauled away an opposition leader on Saturday.

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