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Russian Security Chief Makes Offer

October 25, 2002

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MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s chief security official said Friday the lives of Chechen rebels holding hundreds hostages in a Moscow theater will be guaranteed if they release their captives.

Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Federal Security Service, made the statement after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Russian news agencies reported.

``We are conducting talks and will conduct talks, hoping that they will bring positive results in freeing the hostages,″ Patrushev was quoted as saying by the Interfax agency.

Details of Patrushev’s offer were not immediately available, and it was not clear if the guarantee had been transmitted to the approximately 50 armed rebels who have held hundreds of hostages in the theater for nearly two days.

The gunmen have demanded that Russia withdraw troops from the rebel republic of Chechnya.

The statement came on a day of mixed hopes and disappointments. Eight children were released Friday afternoon, but rebels have not fulfilled their promise to free the estimated 75 foreign citizens in the theater.

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