EU Split Over Duma Vote

BRUSSELS -- The European Union was in disarray Tuesday over the State Duma elections after French President Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him.

The French leader's gesture put him at odds with Germany, which called the elections "neither free, fair nor democratic," and with most other EU governments. It also appeared to run counter to his own Foreign Ministry's criticism of the conduct of the poll.

After two days of wrangling over the wording, the EU's Portuguese presidency issued a mild rebuke over the conduct of the elections Tuesday. "The EU regrets ... that there were many reports and allegations of media restrictions as well as harassment of opposition parties and NGOs in the run-up to the elections and on election day, and that procedures during the electoral campaign did not meet international standards and commitments voluntarily assumed by Moscow," it said.

U.S. President George W. Bush, meanwhile, told Putin in a telephone conversation that he had "sincere" concerns over the vote. China defended the integrity of the elections, saying United Russia's victory appeared to reflect the will of the people.