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DATE=11/10/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / FOREIGN (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-256015 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia is reacting forcefully to the growing chorus of international criticism of its military offensive in Chechnya. V-O-A Moscow Correspondent Peter Heinlein reports Russian officials are urging the West not to focus on Chechnya during next week's European security summit. TEXT: Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin says Russia is willing to discuss the war in Chechnya at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [O-S-C-E] summit in Istanbul. But Mr. Rakhmanin told reporters Wednesday it would be a mistake to let Chechnya dominate the gathering, which will bring together heads of state and government from more than 50 countries. /// 1st RAKHMANIN ACT /// Again I would like to stress that we are not against talking about Chechnya and providing information. We are against making Chechnya the main point of Istanbul. /// END ACT /// With the summit just over one week away, Western governments have been intensifying criticism of the two-month-long Chechen offensive. A U-S State Department spokesman this week said Russia's indiscriminate use of force against civilians in Chechnya is not in keeping with the Geneva conventions. President Clinton, who is scheduled to attend the Istanbul summit, said he would continue to press for what he called a "minimization of civilian casualties." But Mr. Rakhmanin says Russia rejects the U-S criticism. /// 2nd RAKHMANIN ACT /// Russia is not violating the Geneva conventions. We do not use excessive force. But you must understand that when terrorists and bandits are pursuing their tactics, they tend to get closer to the civilian population, and sometimes it's very difficult to avoid civilian casualties. /// END ACT /// // OPT // Mr. Rakhmanin complained that Western leaders and Western audiences are receiving a one- sided picture of the offensive in Chechnya. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was earlier quoted as saying the West was inventing what he called an "illusion of a humanitarian catastrophe" in the region. // OPT // Mr. Rakhmanin emphasized that Moscow considers Chechnya an internal affair, but said Russia is looking forward to telling its side of the story at the O-S-C-E summit. The Russian delegation in Istanbul may be led by President Boris Yeltsin. // END OPT // In advance of the summit, Russia has allowed an O-S-C-E mission to travel to Ingushetia, where members have been deluged with stories from Chechen refugees about attacks on civilians. The ITAR-Tass news agency Wednesday quoted the head of the O-S-C-E delegation as saying the Chechen conflict can no longer be considered a Russian internal affair. The Tass dispatch said mission chief Kim Traavik of Norway said the O-S-C-E intends to put forward a peace initiative to Moscow to end the conflict. (Signed) NEB/PFH/JWH/WTW 10-Nov-1999 13:10 PM EDT (10-Nov-1999 1810 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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