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Czech Parliamentary Chairman To Avoid Stance On Russia

Brno, Czech Republic Jan. 22 (RFE/RL) - Chairman of the Czech Parliament Milan Uhde said today he will not take sides on Russia's application for membership in the Council of Europe.

Uhde will chair the Assembly's Council of Ministers and make a speech at Thursday's meeting in Strasbourg, when the application will be considered.

He told a press conference today that his speech would focus on the Czech chairmanship of the Council of Ministers. Uhde said opinions on the Russian application are bound to be divided after the methods used by Russian forces to attack Chechen hostage-takers in the Dagestan town of Pervomayskaya.

He said, on the other hand, that criticism of the Russian action "would play into the hands of the part of the political scene in Russia which has a deep interest in seeing Russia move away from Europe, from the West."

Uhde said all considerations will have to be taken into account in making the decision.

The Council of Europe is a 38-member organization which monitors civil and human rights in Europe.

Uhde said he expects the discussion on Russia's application to be a long one.