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Kazakhstan's Reforms

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher says the U.S. supports Kazakhstan's bid to lead the Organization for Security and Cooperation, or OSCE, in Europe. Assistant Secretary Boucher told a panel of the U.S. Congress, the decision to support Kazakhstan's chairmanship was based on efforts by Kazakhstan's government to meet OSCE standards.

Since Kazakhstan and its Central Asian neighbors achieved independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, U.S. policy in the region has been to promote democratic and market reforms. The U.S., said Mr. Boucher supports "the development of fully sovereign, stable, democratic nations, integrated into the world economy and cooperating with one another."

When Kazakhstan takes the OSCE's rotating chairmanship in 2010, it will become the first post-Soviet nation to lead the fifty-six nation body. The OSCE was founded in the 1970s to promote dialogue between East and West and security, economic, environmental and human rights issues. Today, OSCE is dedicated to conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in member states. It is dedicated to the promotion of respect for human rights and democracy.

Mr. Boucher noted that the U.S. remains concerned about Kazakhstan's "slow and uneven progress" on the path to democracy. He said civil society and independent media are underdeveloped. Kazakh political institutions continue to be dominated by its presidency.

Kazakhstan has pledged to pass legislation by the end of 2008 to reform its election law, use OSCE recommendations to modernize the media law, and liberalize its system to help the registration of new political parties. Kazakhstan has also promised to protect the autonomy and current mandate of the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

"Clearly, a great deal of work must be done by the end of 2008," said Mr. Boucher.

Assistant Secretary of State Boucher said the United States is ready to extend further assistance to promote democratic reform and civil society development in Kazakhstan. "Our broader vision is for a strong, independent and democratic Kazakhstan," said Mr. Boucher, "that is a leader and anchor in the region."