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Russia/Europe: OSCE May Send Observers To Chechen Elections

Vienna, 14 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meets in Vienna Thursday (Jan 16) to discuss whether to send observers to this month's elections in Chechnya (Jan 27).

OSCE officials say the meeting will study reports prepared by two teams sent to Chechnya recently to examine whether the observers could operate safely. A spokesman tells an RFE/RL correspondent that OSCE wants to send observers, but only if their safety is assured.

The spokesman said OSCE had been shaken by the December murders of Red Cross workers in Chechnya. After the murders, the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations in Chechnya withdrew their workers.

The head of the OSCE office in Chechnya, the Swiss diplomat Tim Guldimann, has made personal appeals to several European governments to provide funds for OSCE observers to go to Chechnya. Officials said today that if the mission is approved the OSCE will probably send 50-60 observers.

Meeting in Paris yesterday, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly decided to send a delegation to observe the elections in Chechnya.