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54 Countries Adopt New Security Charter

The landmark charter proclaims that conflicts in one state were the legitimate concern of all. It also calls on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to establish a civilian rapid reaction capability to help with crisis management, disaster relief and short-notice administrative support in Europe.

The 54- member states’ final declaration at the two-day summit called for OSCE to have both a political and a humanitarian role in Chechnya — a major concession by Russia, which had previously rejected any outside involvement in its seven-week military crackdown on the rebel Caucasian republic.

U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the agreements for the United States and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov for Russia after President Boris Yeltsin flew home early, having told fellow leaders they had no right to criticize Russia’s military onslaught on “bandits and killers” in Chechnya.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said there were moments when he feared the summit would collapse and called the outcome a “respectable compromise.”

The leaders also signed a landmark arms control treaty for Europe, updating 1990 limits on armed forces and heavy equipment set in the Cold War.

The CFE treaty, aimed at eliminating the risk of surprise attack in Europe, sets limits for tanks, armored vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. But unlike the 1990 document, it sets national ceilings, with sub-limits in flank regions, rather than the bloc-to-bloc 
limits agreed between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact.

In a bid to increase pressure on Russia to end its operation in Chechnya, Clinton said in a statement he would delay sending the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification until Moscow had come into compliance by reducing troop levels in the North Caucasus region.

Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema said Moscow had to live up to all its obligations under the new treaty, including withdrawal of its forces from the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova within one year.

“It is clear that ratification of the treaty, by everyone and not just by the United States, depends on Russia honoring the commitments it has made to withdraw these forces,” he said.

However, Moscow pressed ahead with its relentless offensive on Friday, making clear there would be no let-up until Islamic guerrillas are driven out of the territory.

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