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    Shanghai group ministers approve election-control mechanism

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    "We believe a new area in the activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization - sending observers to presidential and parliamentary elections - will allow double standards to be avoided and transparent rules in the crucial sphere of democracy to be established," Lavrov said.

    SHANGHAI, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister said Monday that he and his counterparts within a regional security grouping uniting Russia, China and four Eurasian states had approved a draft election-control mechanism.

    Sergei Lavrov was meeting with his counterparts from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and highlighted the need to increase confidence in election results, which have been criticized in some member countries of the association.

    "We believe a new area in the activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization - sending observers to presidential and parliamentary elections - will allow double standards to be avoided and transparent rules in the crucial sphere of democracy to be established," Lavrov said.

    Lavrov, who is on a two-day visit to neighboring Asian giant China, said the draft mechanism and other important documents designed to make the SCO more efficient would be discussed at a SCO summit in mid-June to mark the fifth anniversary of the organization, which comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

    India, Pakistan and Iran became observers last year, but Tajikistan's foreign minister ruled out Monday that Iran was about to become a full member of the organization.

    Talbak Nazarov said, "This issue is not under discussion at the moment, as the SCO cannot enlarge endlessly, and there is no document regulating the membership of this or that country, including Iran."

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Monday that Lavrov's visit to China would also include bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing.

    "The visit will be an important step in further strengthening Russian-Chinese partnership and strategic interaction," Kamynin said. "Cooperation on global and regional levels on a range of issues, including UN reform, formation of a new, fairer economic order, resolving the situations in 'hot spots', primarily in the Asia-Pacific region, and on a wide range of key aspects of international relations, correspond to the vital interests both of Russia and China."

    Kamynin said strategic partnership and interaction between Russia and China were not merely rhetoric, and added that bilateral with trade had reached $29 billion in 2005, a 38% increase on the previous year, and was expected to hit $60 bln - $80 bln by 2010.

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