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OSCE: New Romanian Chairman Sets Year's Priorities

Vienna, 11 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The new chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Dan Geoana, says he'll use his year in office to focus on the problems of ordinary citizens, but he emphasizes this will not diminish the OSCE's efforts to overcome political and military crises.

Romania assumed the rotating presidency of the OSCE at the start of the year, taking over from Austria, and held its first formal session at the organization's headquarters in Vienna today.

In his inaugural address to the OSCE Permanent Council, Geoana said as a first order of business the OSCE should establish a mission in the Yugoslav capital Belgrade. Yugoslavia was re-admitted to the OSCE only at the end of last year after the fall of the government of President Slobodan Milosevic.

He said he would go to Belgrade next week to discuss with Yugoslav officials the scope of the mission's activities and when it could begin work.

Geoana also says he will go to Moscow soon for discussions on a number of problems, including Moldova and its mostly Slavic breakaway-region of Transdniester, where Russia has peacekeepers stationed.

During his Moscow visit Geoana is also expected to discuss what is widely viewed as Russia's growing dissatisfaction with aspects of the OSCE's work.

Diplomats told an RFE/RL correspondent in Vienna today that these came to a head at a foreign ministers meeting in Vienna at the end of last year.

During the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov sharply criticized what he perceived as an exaggerated OSCE focus on the Balkans and parts of the former Soviet Union. In particular, he criticized OSCE's continuing criticism of the situation in Chechnya and its demands to be allowed to re-establish its mission there.

Ivanov said the OSCE should pay more attention to faults in Western societies, including xenophobia, racism and crime.

His criticisms led to Russia refusing consensus to a planned official report on the meeting. Only a modified version appeared.

In Vienna today, diplomats said Ivanov's speech was reminiscent of comments which came from Moscow in the past and said there was concern about its implications.

At his press conference today, Geoana said he knew that Russian officials discussed their concerns with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder during Schroeder's private visit to Moscow last weekend.

However, he gave no details. Nor did Geoana discuss the approach he would take during his forthcoming visit to Moscow. But he did say that he would continue to press for the return of an OSCE mission to Chechnya under a Romanian ambassador.

Geoana promised a continued OSCE focus on all of its traditional interests, including Central Asia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Belarus. He said that the OSCE "can and should make a real contribution to the democratization of Belarus." He added that OSCE urged all parties there to "commit themselves to a meaningful dialogue which would heal some of the existing internal divisions."

He said the OSCE wanted to work together with the Central Asian states to identify specific areas of cooperation which would yield concrete and positive results.