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Russia, Chechnya Hold Talks

August 1, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ After meeting with Chechnya’s embattled president, Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko declared Saturday that the Russian government would ``do everything possible″ to support the republic’s legally elected government.

``We need peace in the Caucasus, stability and unity, and the resolution of economic problems can facilitate that,″ Sergei Kiriyenko said following talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

The cease-fire and treaty that ended the 1994-1996 war between Russia and Chechnya did not resolve the republic’s political status. Chechnya runs its own affairs and considers itself independent, but Moscow and the rest of the world treats it as part of Russia.

Russia supports Maskhadov, a moderate who is trying to control Chechnya’s diverse and well-armed bands of fighters. Moscow fears that if he were to fall a more radical leader could come to power.

``The Republic of Chechnya has a legally elected government, a legally elected president, and we will do everything possible to support this government,″ Kiriyenko said after the meeting.

The two leaders discussed cooperation on transporting fuel and social policies, including pensions, employment, medical services and children’s needs, Russian news agencies reported.

Kiriyenko also suggested setting up a special economic zone in Chechnya.

Violence and crime have continued to plague Chechnya and the rest of the Caucasus region. Maskhadov _ who led the war for independence and was elected president 18 months ago _ survived a July 23 assassination attempt. Russia’s envoy to Chechnya, Valentin Vlasov, was kidnapped on May 1.

Chechen officials long have accused the Kremlin of failing to fulfill its promises to rebuild the republic’s war-battered economy.

No new agreements were struck at the meeting, but Maskhadov said he was encouraged by the meeting, which he said raised ``hope for the resolution of the earlier agreements.″

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