for BBC News on Dec. 8, 2007
Kazakhstan will assume the presidency of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, the body's council has decided.
The Central Asian country will be the first ex-Soviet republic to chair the human rights and defence watchdog.
The move has been criticised by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which says Kazakhstan's human rights record is not up to scratch.
The US says Kazakhstan has pledged to improve its electoral system by 2009.
"These are very important commitments by the government of Kazakhstan. We intend to see these commitments are implemented," said US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns.
But Human Rights Watch was pessimistic about the prospects for reform in Kazakhstan.
"Kazakhstan doesn't observe OSCE commitments at home. Entrusting in Kazakhstan the leadership to uphold the organisation's human rights commitments is a singularly bad idea," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at the US-based human rights organisation.
Finland is to hold the OSCE presidency in 2008, followed by Greece in 2009.
What does this mean for the persecuted Hare Krishna community? Read the related ISKCON News exclusive story here.