Strasbourg, 23 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A special hearing on prospects for peace in Chechnya was canceled this morning by high officials of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.
The action came only hours before the assembly was due to open its week-long autumn session in Strasbourg. The hearing had been scheduled to take place late this afternoon.
The decision of the assembly's executive bureau to cancel the hearing was announced at a press briefing by the body's president, Leni Fischer.
Mrs. Fischer, a German Christian Democrat, said the bureau's decision was made after she had been officially notified Saturday by Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed that he would not attend.
She also said that another assembly member involved in planning the hearing, Ernst Muehlemann, had been informed over the weekend that Chechen rebel commander Aslan Maskhadov would not attend the hearing either.
Both men had initially accepted invitations to attend the hearing tended to them in late August in Moscow by Muehlemann, a Swiss conservative who is chairman of the assembly's Special Committee on Chechnya.
Those invitations were later characterized as "interference in Russian internal affairs" by Vladimir Lukin, the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman who is head of Russia's parliamentary delegation to the assembly. Lukin threatened a boycott of this week's assembly session by his delegation if Maskhadov was allowed to appear at the hearing.
Fischer said today that the assembly now hoped to hold the hearing in Strasbourg in six weeks or "at any other time convenient to the Russian parties" to the hearings. Council officials told our correspondent later that by "parties" she meant Lebed, Maskhadov and possibly others.