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Citing 2000 dispute, OSCE to track US presidential vote

WASHINGTON -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe plans to observe the US presidential election this year, concerned by the disputed results in 2000, a spokeswoman said.

OSCE members, which include the United States, agreed in 1990 to invite the group to observe their elections. This would be the first invitation to a US presidential election the OSCE accepts, spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir said.

The agency observed the 2002 congressional election and reported that many of the problems found in the 2000 vote were fixed.

US elections officials "succeeded somewhat, but not entirely" in correcting problems encountered in the election of President George W. Bush four years ago, Gunnarsdottir said. The OSCE consists of 55 countries in Europe, Central Asia, and North America working on security-related issues.

OSCE representatives will visit the United States in September to plan their mission, including whether to include enough observers to allow an immediate postelection assessment, Gunnarsdottir said. The OSCE issued its report on the 2002 elections more than two months after the voting.

The US House of Representatives last month approved an amendment to its version of the federal budget bill barring the United States from requesting United Nations observers of US elections. Democrats, including Representative Corrine Brown of Florida, called for UN observers after the disputed results of the 2000 presidential election in her home state.

The US State Department said it welcomed the OSCE's decision to send a team and denied it meant the fairness of the upcoming US election was in doubt.

"This is not a question of whether there's a free and fair election in the United States," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said. "This is a question of an agreement among all states of the OSCE that it is right and appropriate, in the interest of transparency and equity, for all of us at various times to look at each other's elections."

The OSCE observed the gubernatorial election in California last year, the State Department said. Other leading industrial nations also have hosted OSCE election observers in recent years, including Britain and France.

The OSCE wants to continue assessing US responses to the "problems that came up in 2000," Gunnarsdottir said. "There are some issues that we have to look into and we think might be interesting" to pursue this year, she said.

Wendy Silverman of the State Department's human rights bureau said at an OSCE meeting last month in Vienna that the involvement of domestic and international observers "can enhance the electoral process and public confidence in it."

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