Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chechen rebels disagree on independence demand

AFP , MOSCOW

Chechnya's rebels are ready to drop their demand for independence and no longer believe that war can resolve their people's struggle with Russia, a top rebel envoy said in a statement seen on a separatist Web site yesterday.

However, the more radical wing of the guerrilla movement showed no sign of agreeing.

Akhmed Zakayev, the rebel government's foreign minister, wrote in an appeal to the G8 leaders meeting in St Petersburg, that Chechens had always believed independence would guarantee their peace and security.

"However, if in accordance with international law, some other solution can be found to the problem of peace with the Russians ... then we are ready for the necessary negotiations," Zakayev said in the statement on Thursday on the rebel government's Web site.

Contrary to Zakayev's statement, the president in the fugitive separatist government yesterday said that the war in Chechnya would go on despite the death of top rebel warlord Shamil Basayev earlier this week.

"The war continues and, with the help of Almighty Allah, we intend to reach the victory in which we have not doubted one minute," rebel president Doku Umarov said in a statement posted on the separatist's Web site.

Meanwhile, the head of Russia's FSB secret services, Nikolai Patrushev, announced yesterday an amnesty for guerrillas, saying that the killing of Basayev had opened the way to peace.

In a statement couched in unusually conciliatory language, Patrushev appealed on state television for fighters to "enter negotiations with representatives of the legal authorities" before Aug. 1.

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