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Chechnya Leader Orders Islamic Law

February 4, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Meeting a key demand of his opponents, Chechnya’s president ordered the establishment of Islamic law in the breakaway republic, sharply curtailing parliament’s powers and ordering that an Islamic constitution be written.

President Aslan Maskhadov signed several decrees Wednesday, ordering the establishment of ``full-scale″ Islamic law, effective immediately, Russian news agencies reported.

Maskhadov revoked parliament’s legislative functions and ordered the body to cooperate with Muslim leaders to write an Islamic constitution within three months.

Presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagayev said the orders will change all aspects of Chechnya’s life, including education and the military, the Interfax news agency reported.

Maskhadov went on television Wednesday to appeal to Chechnya’s people to support him during the overhaul.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Maskhadov planned to introduce a strict version of Islamic rule _ similar to that imposed by Afghanistan’s Taliban _ or whether he intended to settle for a milder version.

Chechnya’s residents have traditionally practiced a moderate version of Islam. But an extremist Islamic group, the Wahhabis, has been growing more visible and influential recently.

At the same time, Maskhadov has been under increasing pressure from the opposition to control criminal groups and toughen his stance toward Russia. The introduction of Islamic law, or Shariah, will take Chechnya even further from Russia’s constitutional fold.

The opposition was planning to hold a rally today to demand the introduction of Islamic law in Chechnya, Interfax said.

Opposition forces, led by several warlords who pressed Chechnya’s 1994-96 war with Russia, have sought to oust Maskhadov in recent months.

Last week, the embattled president promised his opponents to ``toughen the stand regarding Russia a hundredfold″ if they agree to be loyal to the president.

No country has recognized Chechnya’s independence, and Moscow still regards the republic as part of Russia.

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