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Islamic states dont want to hurt Russia over Chechnya.

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    Islamic states dont want to hurt Russia over Chechnya.

    None of the Islamic states are threatening sanctions or other measures against Moscow.

    Russia, which is threatening to destroy the Chechen capital if its rebel government doesn't admit defeat, still has a huge army, which concerns its immediate neighbors. Few countries are willing to anger Moscow's government or add to its fragility, especially at a time many are seeking better economic ties with Russia.

    In addition, many Islamic nations fear reinforcing the idea that the world should intervene over minority issues inside another country -- something that could be used against Turkey, with its restive Kurdish minority, or China with Tibet and Muslims from Xinjiang province or Indonesia with Aceh, Irian Jaya. Russia, with a veto in the U.N. Security Council, could have a strong influence over where the world body might intervene in the future.

    The West has a strong interest in preserving Russia in one piece, according to Hakan Kirimli of Ankara's Bilkent University.

    "You can crush Serbia, and that was costly, but crushing or cracking Russia is inconceivable," he added.

    The issue of Chechnya has been raised informally in the U.N. Security Council by individual members, but Russia has never allowed the matter to go further.

    And some countries fear that if Russia were weakened, President Boris Yeltsin could fall and Russia could emerge with a radical leader.

    Western countries have been warning Russia that its bombardment of Chechnya is a mistake. Muslim countries, where emotions are the highest, have been reluctant to act.

    Turkey, where 10 percent of the population traces its ancestry to Caucasus republics like Chechnya, exemplifies the competing tensions over Chechnya.

    It is not likely that Turkey will hurt Russia. Turkey is battling Kurdish guerrillas in its southeast and, just like Russia, bristles whenever foreign countries criticize its military action.

    And as the winter cold hits Istanbul, Turkish politicians are well aware that much of the country's heating gas comes from Russia.

    "Although there is a strong feeling here for Chechnya ... Turkey is treading carefully," said Gulnur Aybet, a professor at Ankara's Bilkent University.

    Iran is in a similar position.

    Although it dispatched aid to the Chechens last week, Tehran asked Moscow for permission before sending in the supplies. Russia is building a nuclear reactor in southern Iran, and the two countries have close defense ties. Iran also has its own restive ethnic minorities.

    Saudi Arabia's most senior cleric last month called on Muslims to donate whatever they could to the Muslims of Kosovo and Chechnya.

    Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef, however, denied Russian accusations that his country was financing the rebels.

    Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is fighting several separatist movements and has said it will not get involved in the Chechnya crisis.

    "It's Russia's internal problem," foreign affairs spokesman Sulaiman Abdulmanan said.
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