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EU's Solana urges calm in Moldova

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged protesters against a Communist election victory in Moldova to avoid violence on Tuesday, but encouraged authorities to let peaceful demonstrations go ahead.

“I call on all sides to refrain from violence and provocation. Violence against government buildings is unacceptable,” he said in a statement, issued as a Reuters photographer in Chisinau said demonstrators had taken control of the president’s offices.

“Equally important is the respect for the inalienable right of assembly of peaceful demonstrators,” he said. Moldova is one of six former Soviet states with which the EU is due to launch a new programme of enhanced ties at a summit in Prague next month.

“International election observers noted in their preliminary findings that the elections met many international standards and commitments, but that further improvements were required,” he added in the statement.

About 10,000 demonstrators in Europe’s poorest country massed for the second day after the Communist Party led by veteran President Vladimir Voronin scored a big victory in a weekend parliamentary election.

Voronin, the only Communist president in Europe, has overseen stability and growth in Moldova since 2001, but cannot stand for a third consecutive term.

The EU will on May 7 launch the so-called “Eastern Partnership” programme of closer ties with Ukraine, Georgia. Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus.

The plan envisages aid, the gradual creation of a free trade zone and better energy ties. The EU will also negotiate accords setting terms for cooperation in reward for democratic and free-market reforms.

Reporting by Mark John