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Russia: Iranian Official Urges End To Chechen Campaign

Moscow, Dec. 6, 1999 (NCA) - The head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) today said Russia's use of force in Chechnya was disproportionate and should be stopped. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, visiting in Moscow as head of the OIC delegation, told reporters after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that Moscow's campaign in Chechnya should be halted to prevent further civilian casualties. Ivanov restated Moscow's position that it is fighting terrorists. The Russian official also said that the OIC recognizes the conflict in Chechnya as Russia's internal affair.

The OIC delegation is to leave Moscow tomorrow to visit Dagestan and Ingushetia as well as Russian-controlled parts of Chechnya.

Moscow today gave an ultimatum to civilians and fighters inside Grozny to leave the Chechen capital before December 11 or be eliminated by artillery and aviation.

Russian forces were reported to have continued shelling targets around Chechnya, including Argun, a town that Russian commanders had claimed to have captured last week. Russian NTV television today reported that Russian troops have so far failed to defeat Chechen fighters in Argun.

Reporters on the scene say that despite Russian claims of blocking entrances to Grozny, Chechen fighters could freely move in and out of the city, bringing in supplies and ammunition when necessary.