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Chechnya: World Leaders Condemn Moscow's Ultimatum

Washington/Brussels, 7 December 1999 (RFE/RL) - U.S. and European leaders have condemned Russia's ultimatum to Chechens to leave the capital, Grozny, or face military annihilation within days. The Russian military yesterday dropped leaflets in Grozny which informed residents that unless they evacuated the city by Saturday (Dec. 11), they would be considered terrorists and would face destruction from massive artillery and air attacks. The European Union condemned the ultimatum and said it was considering not signing new accords with Moscow. The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe, Knut Vollebaek, said bombarding Grozny might result in a "short-term victory" for the Russians. But he said the Chechen conflict can only be settled by political means. U.S. President Bill Clinton said Russia would pay a heavy price for its actions. He said Moscow's policy in Chechnya is only encouraging extremism and diminishing Russia's standing in the world. On a visit to Moscow, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Russia's use of force is disproportionate and should be stopped. Kharrazi is due to visit Russian-controlled Chechnya today as head of a delegation from the Organization of the Islamic Conference.