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Helsinki Commission Urges Yeltsin to Disavow Lebed Comments

Washington, July 1 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe has urged Russian President Boris Yeltsin to disavow recent comments concerning religion made by his National Security Adviser Alexander Lebed.

Lebed last week was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he would rid Russia of cults, including the Mormon Church, because they are a threat to Russia's security. He reportedly also chided a supporter for "speaking like a Jew."

The Commission Co-Chairman, U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey), said in a statement that Lebed's comment represents a threat to religious liberty and displays an "alarming disregard" for international agreements to which Russia acceded.

U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-New York), who co-chairs the Commission with Smith, says he is "outraged" by the statement. D'Amato said "It sounds like the old Soviet Union all over again when the Kremlin had a tame official church for political purposes, but harassed and persecuted religious dissidents."

The Commission, also known as the Helsinki Commission, was established in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the Helsinki accords.