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UPDATE 1-U.S. says it is 'gravely concerned' about Ethiopia elections

·1-min read

(Adds quotes, background)

WASHINGTON, June 11 (Reuters) - The United States is "gravely concerned" about the environment in which the June 21 elections in Ethiopia will be held and urged politicians and other community leaders there to denounce violence, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

"The hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple parts of Ethiopia threaten the country's unity and territorial integrity. The period following these elections will be a critical moment for Ethiopians to come together to confront these divisions," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

"The exclusion of large segments of the electorate from this contest due to security issues and internal displacement is particularly troubling," Price said.

Ethiopia's national and regional parliamentary elections -- which could lead to the country's first democratic transfer of power -- were due to be held in August 2020 but Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed postponed them amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, the country's election board postponed elections in two regional states, citing irregularities and ballot printing problems, moving the vote there to Sept. 6.

In his statement, Price cited potential obstacles "to a free and fair electoral process and whether Ethiopians would perceive them as credible," including "the detention of opposition politicians," media harassment and inter-ethnic and conflicts, among other issues. (Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Susan Heavey; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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