Monitors Seek Better Terms for Observing Vote

Two senior officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held talks Monday with Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov in a bid to secure improved conditions for a mission to observe the March 2 presidential vote.

Russia said last week that it invited fewer international observers than in the past and that they could not begin their work until Feb. 28.

The OSCE's election-monitoring arm said that would leave it short of time to conduct a satisfactory monitoring operation and has threatened to reject the invitation if Moscow does not change its mind.

"If we are told we cannot come until Feb. 28, we've been pretty clear since the beginning that we will not observe under those conditions," Curtis Budden, the spokesman for the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said by telephone from Serbia.

Budden said the organization had asked for approval to send a logistics team to Russia on Tuesday, followed by the mission itself over the next two weeks.

"We wanted the rest of our core team -- our analysts -- to arrive Friday and the rest of the fifty observers to arrive next week," he said.