German FM hopeful on Ukraine observer mission

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's foreign minister says he's confident Western nations and Russia have resolved a key stumbling block to the deployment of international observers in Ukraine.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier says he believes the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Russia is a member, has agreed on the upper limit for the number of observers the Vienna-based body would send to Ukraine. Steinmeier told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that the remaining hurdle concerns the regions where the OSCE teams would be deployed.

Russia wants the observers, who could number several hundred, to also go to western Ukraine. Moscow says Russian-speakers are subject to abuse there, a claim for which human rights groups say there is no evidence.

Steinmeier says Germany was prepared to send 20 observers as early as Thursday.

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