- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Chechen gets support

The self-styled foreign minister of Chechnya returns to Washington today with hopes for a high-level meeting at the State Department boosted by a Senate resolution that criticized Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright for refusing to see him.

Ilyas Akhmadov, who was here last week for meetings with members of Congress, is in the United States to get Washington's support for a peace plan proposed by the breakaway Russian republic. He was in New York yesterday.

The State Department said it has offered to meet Mr. Akhmadov outside the building to avoid the impression that the United States is granting official recognition to Chechnya.

Mrs. Albright is in Syria today for the funeral of President Hafez Assad. Mr. Akhmadov says he can wait for "several weeks" if necessary to see her.

The Clinton administration has called on Russia to end its military offensive in Chechnya but continues to view the republic as part of the Russian Federation.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, who met with Mr. Akhmadov last week, introduced a resolution on Friday that calls on Mrs. Albright to meet the Chechen representative, who asked for an appointment two weeks ago. The resolution passed on a unanimous voice vote.

"I find it incredible that Mr. Akhmadov's requests for a meeting with Secretary of State Albright and other senior U.S. government officials have been flatly rejected," the North Carolina Republican said after his resolution was adopted.

"This is an outrage. The United States should be working to facilitate peace in Chechnya, not to encourage the Kremlin to further its brutal campaign against the Chechen people."

The resolution urges Mrs. Albright to listen to Mr. Akhmadov's "proposals to initiate a cease-fire in the war in Chechnya and to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to the victims of this tragic conflict."

The resolution also denounces Russia for the "indiscriminate use of force" that has "caused the deaths of innocent civilians and the displacement of well over 250,000 residents of Chechnya."

Russian Ambassador Yury V. Ushakov could not be reached for comment because the Russian Embassy was closed yesterday for its national holiday.

The State Department has also declined to discuss the Senate resolution.

Spokesman Philip Reeker last week told reporters the department had offered to meet with Mr. Akhmadov at some other location. The Chechen desk officer met him in January at a Washington hotel.

"We seek out a wide variety of viewpoints [on Chechnya]," Mr. Reeker said. "But I have to say we don't recognize him as a foreign minister. He is a private citizen of the Russian Federation."

Bulgarians on trial

Bulgarian Ambassador Philip Dimitrov is raising an alarm in the United States over the Libyan trial of six Bulgarian medics accused of infecting nearly 400 children with the AIDS virus.

The trial that was scheduled to begin last week has been postponed to allow a Libyan lawyer more time to prepare a defense for the five nurses and one doctor who face the death penalty if convicted.

Bulgaria says the medics were tortured into confessing they deliberately infected 393 Libyan children with the HIV virus, which causes the deadly AIDS disease.

"While the … opening trial date has been postponed, it is important to call attention to the possible violations of the six accused Bulgarian citizens' legal rights as guaranteed by international law and threats to bilateral agreements between Bulgaria and Libya," the ambassador said in a statement.

"It is my hope that this trial allows the Bulgarian defendants a truthful presentation of the evidence to which they are entitled."

In February 1999, Libya arrested 19 Bulgarian medics working in a children's hospital in Benghazi, after an investigation into how the children were infected with the virus. Libya later dropped charges against 13 of the medics.

The Bulgarian Embassy, in a review of the case, accused Libya of violating the defendants' international legal rights and blocking their ability to prepare a defense.

Bulgaria has also complained that Libya has failed to keep its ambassador to Libya and consular officers in Benghazi informed of progress in the case.

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