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Azerbaijani Military Chief Seeks Offensive With AM-CSCE-Summit

March 25, 1992

MOSCOW (AP) _ Azerbaijan’s defense minister Tuesday called for a stepped-up offensive to free Muslim villages seized by Armenian troops in the disputed Nagorno- Karabakh enclave, news agencies said.

The Azerbaijani parliament session Tuesday was the first held since President Ayaz Mutalibov resigned March 6, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

Defense Minister Rahim Gaziyev told lawmakers he needed extra military powers and urged an all-out military effort to free Azerbaijani villages.

Gaziyev said Mutalibov had failed to strengthen the military, the Turan news agency reported. Mutalibov resigned under pressure from those seeking an end to the 4-year-old conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominately Christian Armenian region controlled by Muslim-dominated Azerbaijan.

At least 1,000 people have died in the fighting, which has escalated since the collapse of Kremlim rule in December.

Both sides have generally ignored an Iranian-brokered cease-fire announced Friday.

In Helsinki, Finland, the 51-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe agreed Tuesday to hold a peace conference on Nagorno-Karabakh. No date for the meeting was announced.

The ITAR-Tass news agency said Azerbaijani fighters on Tuesday fired at least 25 Grad missiles on Stepanakert, capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. An Armenian spokesman said four children died in an Azerbaijani barrage on the village of Akbullakh.

Armenian forces fired rockets on the village of Divanalylar, ITAR-Tass said, injuring three people, and Armenian militants took seven former Soviet soldiers hostage in an attack on a border outpost.

Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, separatists in Moldova proposed four- way peace talks with Russia and Ukraine to settle their conflict with the Moldovan government over the self-declared Trans-Dniester republic.

Most of Trans-Dniester’s 600,000 residents are either ethnic Russians or Ukrainians. The rest of Moldova has an ethnic Romanian majority.

Update hourly