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European Official Endorses Chechen Vote

The World | IN BRIEF / RUSSIA

February 16, 2003|From Times Wire Reports

Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, backed a planned referendum in Chechnya as a move toward peace but said Russia must do more to stop military abuses in the breakaway region.

Gil-Robles said the March 23 referendum -- on a new constitution keeping Chechnya under Russian control but moving toward elections -- marks the start of a political resolution to years of war.

Some rights groups say a fair election can't be held in conditions of war. Moscow has ruled out talks with the rebels and portrays the vote as a key to peace.

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