Sarkozy holds talks with Kazakhstan president

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy hosted Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Paris Monday for talks that focused on forging stronger ties between the EU and the former Soviet republic.

The two countries previously signed partnership deals when Sarkozy visited Astana in 2009, and during Nazarbayev's trip to Paris last year.

The oil and gas rich central Asian state has also inked deals with leading French energy companies, including Total.

In a joint statement issued after their hour-long meeting, the leaders voiced hope that talks to create stronger ties between Astana and the European Union could be concluded "in the shortest time possible".

Relations between the two countries cooled last year after Sarkozy skipped a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) hosted by Kazakhstan. Astana said publicly that Sarkozy's absence was not "appreciated".

Nazarbayev was reelected in April with 95.55-percent in a vote OSCE observers said fell short of "genuine democratic" standards.

The group said it found evidence of ballot stuffing and a state effort to compel people to vote.

© 2011 AFP

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