Yeltsin to Act on Aliyev Complaint on Arms Sales

MOSCOW (Reuter)–Russian President Boris Yeltsin has responded to letters from Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev–who complained that Moscow supplied arms to Armenia–the Kremlin said Saturday.

The head of state has acquainted himself with them (Aliyev’s letters) and appropriate instructions have been given to a number of ministries and agencies," the presidential press service said in a statement. It did not say what the instructions were.

Aliyev summoned top Azeri officials Friday to discuss the alleged arms shipmen’s and sent a message to Yeltsin urging the Kremlin leader to have the weapons sent back to Russia. The Azeri ambassador to Moscow said then he did not believe Yeltsin or Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin knew of the arms and Moscow had promised to investigate.

The chairman of the Azeri parliament said the arms supplies–which according to a senior Russian politician totaled $1 billion in 1993-1996–could destabilize the Transcaucasus region and cause a new war.

Russian media reported last month that dozens of tanks and armored vehicles were flown to Armenia–which is involved in a bitter dispute with Baku over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia released four Azeri soldiers on Saturday in what it called a unilateral gesture of goodwill. The soldiers–who were captured nine months ago when they strayed near the Armenian-Azeri border–looked well.

The head of the International Red Cross mission in Armenia–Zoran Yovanovich–told Reuters that–as far as he knew–there were no more Azeri prisoners of war in Armenia. But the Red Cross does not have access to all prisons–he noted. The Azeri Turan news agency said late on Friday that it had "unilaterally" released an Armenian national.

A delegation of the Russian State Duma–headed by Nikolay Ryzhkov arrived in Armenia to hold meetings with representatives of the National Assembly.

During a meeting–asked about Duma’s discussions on Russian arms supply to Armenia–Ryzhkov explained–"I would like not to draw any final conclusions yet–but I can tell you that–in my opinion–the materials Lev Rokhlin presented at the State Duma should have been verified very carefully before they were publicized. There is no excuse for what Rokhlin has done."

Ruzhkov noted that there was no discussion of the issue at the time of the initial report and deputies were not given a chance to voice their opinion.

This–according to Ryzhkov–was cause for discontent on the part of deputies and they expressed it to the parliament speaker.

The Russian parliamentarian noted that he is very thankful to the Armenian people for never forgetting him.

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