IRAN REITERATES CHECHNYA WAR IS RUSSIA'S INTERNAL AFFAIR

DOHA-PARIS 6TH Dec. (IPS) The Islamic Republic of Iran reiterated Monday that the Russian forces onslaught on the Chechen people is an "internal matter" and that the mission he is carrying on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) "did not seek mediation" in that war.

"In fact it is a domestic issue because it was going on within the Russian territory. However, since the victims are Muslims, the Islamic states are willing to have a part in helping settle the crisis", the Iranian Foreign Minister told Qatar's "Al Jazira" television network, one of the Arab world's most outspoken and liberal mass media.

According to Mr. Kharrazi the delegation dispatched to Moscow by the Jeddah-based OIC is on a "fact-finding" mission which does not "seek mediation" in the savage war that has killed thousands of innocent civilian Chechens, most of them Muslim.

Though in his view the Chechen crisis could not be settled but through a political solution, however, he admitted that the OIC delegation had "no practical plan but to listen to the viewpoints of the Russian officials and get a deeper insight into the Chechen conflict through talks with people".

But considering the fact that the Russians are insisting that they would not stop the war before the complete occupation of the self-proclaimed Chechen independent Republic, diplomats and political analysts in Tehran said by accepting Iran's demand to let in a "fact finding" delegation, Moscow has in fact helped the Islamic Republic boosting it's position as the chairman of the OIC.

"Since Mr. Kharrazi admits himself that the OIC has no plan for the Chechen crisis in the one hand and since the Russian position on this issue is more than crystal clear, one is wondered about the aim of such a senseless mission", one Tehran expert on Russian and Caucasian affairs told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity.

Leading a four members delegation made of the Islamic Republic of Iran as the current chair nation of the OIC, Qatar, the next chair country, Morocco, the last one and Burkina Faso as the head of the 54 nations ministerial meeting, Mr. Kharrazi said the present visit was taking place upon the approval of Russian officials and on condition that the number of the delegates do not exceed five people.

He said since the Chechen capital of Grozny was under siege, the delegation will be allowed to go to areas that are calm.

Islamic Republic's open siding with the Christian Russia against the proud Muslim people of Chechnya had placed the presidency of Tehran over the OIC in a flawed position, leading some OIC members to openly blaming Iran for the Organisation's lethargy in the bloody conflict.

Observers recalled that from the outset, not only the Islamic Republic had publicly sided with Moscow but also offered Russia co-operations in fighting uproot "terrorism" in the region.

Reporting on Mr. Kharrazi's meeting with Moscow's Mayor Yuri Luzkhov on issues of "mutual concerns", the Iranian official news agency IRNA quoted Mr. Kharrazi expressing Muslim states "concern about the crisis that has resulted in a large number of Muslims being sacrificed".

The Iran-led mission arrived in Moscow as Russia was warning inhabitants of Grozny to either give up resisting or face annihilation.

"The crisis can be brought to an end only through political and peaceful means,'' IRNA quoted Mr. Kharrazi as underlying the efforts by the Islamic countries to put an immediate end to the crisis", IRNA added, stopping short of explaining to whom Mr. Kharazi had made the remarks.

But the Iranian Foreign Minister failed to say how the OIC would help solving the crisis peacefully when it does not have any plan nor seeking mediation.

Commenting on the importance of the Iranian initiative, a Moscow-based Iranian journalist confirmed that the visit was "nothing but a friendly gesture by the Russians towards their good Iranian friends".

Arrived Monday in Moscow, the delegation is scheduled to meet with the Russian Premier Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. ENDS OIC CHECHNYA 61299