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Russia: Lebed Has Not Said 'No' To Invitation To Chechnya Hearing

Strasbourg, 20 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Council of Europe is still not sure whether Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed will attend a hearing on Chechnya scheduled for Monday by the organization's Parliamentary Assembly.

Gian-Paolo Castanetto, the Parliamentary Assembly's deputy clerk, told journalists in Strasbourg this morning that Lebed has not turned down the body's invitation to appear at the hearing. He recalled that Lebed had orally accepted an invitation to attend when it was tended to him by an assembly officer in Moscow early this month.

At the time, the Parliamentary Assembly's Special Committee on Chechnya also invited Chechen rebel commander Aslan Maskhadov to speak at the closed-door hearing. Two weeks ago, the Council announced that both men had accepted and would travel to Strasbourg.

But soon after, Vladimir Lukin, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, accused the Council of interfering in Russia's internal affairs and threatened a boycott of next week's Parliamentary Assembly session by the Russian delegation if Maskhadov was allowed to appear at the shearing.

Deputy Clerk Castanetto said that the assembly received this morning a full official list of Russian participants in the session. The name of Lukin, the nominal head of the18-member Russian delegation, was not on the list.

Castanetto also said that the assembly's final decision on its Chechnya hearing would be taken by the body's Executive Bureau when it meets early Monday morning, six hours before the opening of the assembly's week-long autumn session.

He said that by then it should be clear whether Lebed will attend, and suggested that the assembly would decide on what kind of hearing to hold on the basis of Lebed's final decision.

Castanetto further suggested that there was no chance of Maskhadov attending the hearing. Earlier this week, diplomats at the council told our correspondent that, after Lukin's criticisms, the assembly effectively "dis-invited" the rebel chief.