Russia Today - Russia rejects foreign mediation in Chechnya

MOSCOW, Dec 15, 1999 -- (Reuters) Interfax news agency quoted a senior source in the Russian leadership as saying on Wednesday that Moscow saw no role for international mediation in its conflict with Chechnya.

"Moscow sees no need for international mediation to settle the situation in Chechnya," Interfax quoted the unnamed source as saying. Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov said he wanted to meet a senior Russian official if the meeting was mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

OSCE chairman Knut Vollebaek, who is due to visit Russian-held areas in Chechnya on Wednesday, said he was willing to mediate a meeting between Maskhadov and a Russian representative.

In a conflicting report, Itar-Tass news agency quoted "authoritative sources" as saying such a meeting was being considered and could take place in Ingushetia, a region west of Chechnya, or in the Russian-held zone of Chechnya itself.

After nearly three months of a military advance against separatist rebels, Russia controls most of the populated area in northern and central Chechnya. Moscow has in the past refused to give the OSCE a role in solving the conflict.

Russia says it is ready to negotiate with the Chechens, but wants them first to release all hostages and turn in suspected terrorists. Russian officials also complain Chechnya lacks a leader who controls the region and could therefore serve as a negotiating partner.

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