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OSCE: European Security Charter Signed

Istanbul/Moscow, 19 November (RFE/RL) - Leaders of 54 countries, including the United States and Russia, today adopted a Charter for European Security. The document establishes the principle that conflicts in one state are the legitimate concern of all. It was signed in Istanbul at the end of a two-day summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The charter gives the 54-nation OSCE more powers to handle crises, rebuild war-torn communities, and monitor human rights. A key passage in the charter is meant to prevent countries from declaring that internal conflicts, such as Russia's offensive in Chechnya, are no business of their neighbors.

Earlier today at the summit, 30 leaders signed an updated version of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. That pact places legally binding limits on all 54 OSCE states for deploying troops and armaments on their respective territory. The leaders signing the CFE treaty must now convince their national parliaments to ratify it. U.S. President Bill Clinton said he would not present the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification until Russia complies completely by reducing its forces in and around Chechnya.

In Moscow, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said Moscow does not need OSCE mediation to bring an end to the war in Chechnya.

At an OSCE summit in Istanbul yesterday, western leaders and Russia reached a five-point accord on Chechnya, recognizing the need for political dialogue with the breakaway republic. The accord includes Russian recognition of the need to respect OSCE norms. It also includes Russia's acceptance of the importance of a political solution to the Chechen crisis

Rushailo said Russian President Boris Yeltsin adopted the "tough line" he should have at the summit concerning Chechnya. Rushailo said there will be no withdrawal of Russian forces from the republic.

Meanwhile, a spokesman at the Russian forces headquarters in Mozdok in North Ossetia tells Interfax that despite deteriorating weather conditions, jets and helicopter gunships flew 60 sorties into Chechnya during the 24-hour period ending this morning.

A Chechen munitions dump, two anti-aircraft batteries and two bridges are reported to have been destroyed and an estimated 150 rebel fighters killed in the latest raids. There is no independent confirmation of the reports.

Russian forces launched rocket attacks yesterday on Grozny and Urus-Martan and reportedly took control of another Chechen town, Achkhoi-Martan.