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Bush urged to press Russia on democracy

AN INTERNATIONAL group of scholars, human rights leaders, democracy activists, and former government officials have appealed to US President George W Bush to raise a number of urgent human rights concerns during his summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 in Bratislava.

In a letter sent to President Bush February 17, the group urged that he adopt a new US policy toward Russia that places at its centrepiece the issue of the future of democracy in the country.

"Your upcoming summit with President Vladimir Putin of Russia is an important opportunity to reinforce your stated commitment to promoting democratic freedoms and human rights around the world," the letter states.

"As part of that policy, we urge you and the United States to publicly challenge President Putin's authoritarian course. We urge you to make human rights, democratic practices, and the rule of law essential elements of the dialogue with Moscow and a precondition for the deepening of bilateral ties."

Among other recommendations, the letter asks President Bush to encourage President Putin to:
- Restore political pluralism, in part by making a public commitment to abide by the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Agreement
- Ease regulations on funding nongovernmental organizations and end the harassment of Western-funded democracy and rights NGOs
- Allow the creation of at least one independent television channel open to the views of opposition forces and civic groups
- Permit visits to Chechnya by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Special Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances
- Promote genuine political pluralism and the rule of law in former Soviet republics.

Compiled by Spectator staff from press releases

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