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Russia: Lebed to Decline Strasbourg Invite, Accept NATO

Moscow, 17 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said today that he would almost certainly turn down an invitation to speak about his Chechnya peace deal before the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg.

Interfax news agency quoted Lebed as saying aboard his plane heading for Chechnya that the trip was unlikely because the criminal code introduced by rebel leaders recently did not correspond to accepted human rights norms.

The code he mentioned is based on Islamic laws or Sharia. Lebed did not elaborate.

The assembly invited Lebed and the separatist chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, to Strasbourg on September 23 and to take part in a hearing on the peace pact the two men signed on August 31.

The Council of Europe promotes democracy and human rights.

Meanwhile, Lebed said today he had accepted an invitation to visit NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 7-8. .

Lebed said he would discuss NATO's expansion plans during the trip. Our correspondent in Strasbourg cites informed diplomats at the Council of Europe as saying today that Council officials have within the past 48 hours formally offered Lebed the opportunity of appearing alone at next Monday's scheduled hearing on Chechnya.

The diplomats say that Chechen separatist commander Aslan Maskhadov has effectively been what they call "dis-invited" to the hearing by the Council. They now believe that the entire 18-member Russian delegation to the Council's Parliamentary Assembly will attend next week's assembly session. The closed-door hearing is scheduled for the first day of the session, Monday September 23.

Last week, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin denounced the Council's earlier invitation to Maskhadov to attend the hearing. Lukin said the Russian delegation would not attend the assembly session if Maskhadov was allowed to appear at the hearing.

The Strasbourg-based diplomats also say that the delegation could very well include Sergei Kovalyov, the Russian human-rights activist and Duma member. They point out that Kovalyov is a full member of Russia's delegation to the assembly.