KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, June 27 (AP)--The chairman of the Organizationof the Islamic Conference appealed to the Russian government Tuesday tostop using military force against the breakaway republic of Chechnya andto seek a political settlement.

Azzedine Laraki said in his speech to a four-day gathering of the56-nation organization in Kuala Lumpur that a political settlement wouldensure peace and stability and prevent further casualties.

``The OIC is seriously concerned over the continuation of the tragicsituation in that small republic,'' Laraki said.

The Russian military campaign since last September has resulted in thedeaths of thousands of innocent people and the destruction of theinfrastructure of Chechnya, a largely Muslim territory, Laraki said.

The outgoing chairman of conference, Youssouf Ouedraogo, called onmember countries to extend humanitarian assistance to alleviate theChechens' sufferings. Some 250,000 people are believed to have beendisplaced by the fighting.

Lakari also urged Muslim countries to show solidarity with the Palestinians during a crucial stage of negotiations with Israel in their quest for an independent homeland.

Laraki said Muslim nations should render whatever economic assistance they can to the Palestinians.

In a speech carried by the Malaysian news agency Bernama, Laraki invited members to ``reaffirm their solidarity with the people of Palestine in the face of the hostile Israeli practices and to bolster the stand of the Palestinian negotiators.''

Laraki said that the Middle East peace process had reached a crucial stage following the Israeli troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon and moves to wrap up a final-status agreement on an overall settlement.

The international community needed to compel Israel to immediately stop new settlement works in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Laraki said. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital and the Israelis say it is indivisible.

Laraki said that the core issues of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements and water resources remained unresolved despite a deadline for a settlement being weeks away. Many believe it cannot be met.

Outgoing chairman Ouedraogo said the recent withdrawal of Israeli forces had raised hopes that a lasting peace was achievable in the region.

Ouedraogo paid tribute to the late Syrian leader Hafez Assad, describing him as an advocate of peace. A minute's silence was held.

Peace talks between Israel and Syria broke down earlier this year and many hope that his son and successor, Bashar, will be able to find a settlement where his father--one of Israel's most inflexible foes--could not.

Laraki disclosed that the OIC's secretariat, based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was suffering a cash shortage due to slowness in collecting contributions.

Noting the organization represents more than one-fifth of the world's population, Laraki pointed out that the budget for its secretariat was $11 million--and in reality, less than half that amount comes in.

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