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France's Sarkozy congratulates Putin on election win
 
PARIS, March 6 (BSS/AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday congratulated Vladimir Putin following his reelection as Russian president and urged him to "continue democratic and economic modernisation."

"I offer you all of my congratulations and all the best
wishes for Russia and the Russian people," Sarkozy wrote in a
letter released by the Elysee late on Monday.

"As you prepare to assume the highest executive office in
your country for a third time, I offer you my most sincere
encouragement to continue the work of democratic and economic
modernisation to which, in accordance with the wishes expressed
by the Russian people, you will want to devote your new mandate."

Earlier French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe gave a cool
reaction to Putin's return to the Russian presidency, saying the
election "was not exemplary" but accepting that his controversial
victory was not in doubt.

"I take note that President Putin is our interlocutor for
years to come," Juppe told a news conference. "Overall, despite
some criticism ... the re-election of President Putin is not in
doubt."

"The election was not exemplary," Juppe said, but "there was
no brutal repression during the campaign, as might have been the
case in other times."

Putin secured almost 64 percent of the vote in Sunday's
election, winning back the Russian presidency which he held for
two terms from 2000 to 2008, but some of his rivals and several
vote monitoring groups cried foul.

A report from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation
in Europe said the conditions of the Russian campaign were
"clearly skewed" in Putin's favour.

"Some observers, notably the OSCE, have criticised the way
the election was held," Juppe said. "Concerning France, our aim
is to develop the partnership that we have with Russia, an
absolutely strategic partnership on every level."

"We hope that Russian society will show restraint, that
violence will be avoided, that the freedom to demonstrate will be
respected," Juppe said.

He voiced hope that "the idea that in a democracy you can be
contested, you can be criticised, including in the street... will
now also be an accepted idea in Russia."
 
 
 
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