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Russia: Ivanov To Attend Council Of Europe Meeting On Chechnya

Moscow, 27 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is scheduled today to arrive in Strasbourg to attend a special session on Chechnya being held by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. ITAR-TASS reports that Ivanov is expected to present a report on Chechnya and the North Caucasus, focusing on efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in the region. Some 250,000 refugees have fled the fighting in Chechnya, with the majority taking refuge in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia.

A delegation from the parliamentary assembly recently visited the Russian-controlled areas of Chechnya, as well as Ingushetia and Dagestan. Lord David Russell-Johnston, the head of the delegation, said recently that he would refrain from recommending sanctions against Moscow for its handling of the war. But he said Russia's suspension from the organization looks increasingly likely. He said the trip gave him a better understanding of problems Russia is facing in dealing with lawlessness. But he said the methods used by Moscow put it in "complete breach of the agreement she (Russia) made when she joined the Council of Europe."

Meanwhile the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) called yesterday for an immediate end to the war in Chechnya.

Iran's official IRNA agency quoted an OIC statement urging an end to the fighting as a "first step to start a political process." An IOC delegation visited Moscow recently to discuss a political solution to the Chechen war. The delegation was headed by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and was comprised of senior representatives from Iran, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, and the OIC secretariat. Iran is the chairman of the IOC.

In the statement, the OIC also called for the release of prisoners and hostages, the safe return of refugees to their homes, and a general amnesty.

Yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin that the Muslim world is concerned about the loss of life in Chechnya. He said the conflict could only be resolved through political means.