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Christopher Smith Rebuts Kazakh Claims on Meeting

WASHINGTON – Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, disassociated himself from views attributed to him in a July 4 press release by Kazinform.  That release claimed Smith had said Kazakhstan has “real chances” to become OSCE Chairman-in-Office in 2009, as “all requirements are quite feasible.”

Smith, Co-Chairman of the US Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly which is holding its annual meeting in Washington, said the English-language press release failed to convey accurately his position.

“Unfortunately, the remarks in that press release distort the tenor of my message to the Kazakh delegation when we met a few days ago.  My emphasis was that if various benchmarks are not met, Kazakhstan has no chance to win the chairmanship.”

The US Government has given Kazakhstan a list of minimum requirements that must be met to gain American backing for Kazakhstan’s bid.  These include:

– Conducting free and fair presidential elections

– Passing legislation on NGOs that does not inhibit their ability to function

– Allowing opposition party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan to function legally

– Amend the criminal code to protect journalists against criminal libel lawsuits

“I would be delighted if Kazakhstan’s record on democratization and human rights were such that Washington could support its candidacy,” said Smith.  “But in fact, we are concerned that Kazakhstan has been backsliding on its OSCE commitments.  Secretary Rice could not certify to Congress this year that Kazakhstan is making progress on human rights.  Unless they make a lot of progress quickly, they’ll have no chance.”

The Russian version of the press release notes that Smith told the Kazakh Delegation that the requirements listed above are realizable – if Kazakhstan showed “strong political will” to implement them. 

“That language is closer to what I wanted to convey,” said Smith.  “I do believe Kazakhstan can meet these benchmarks.  Now they must demonstrate their willingness to do so.”

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