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Chechen Leader Meets Russian

January 10, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s interior minister met Sunday with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, one day after Maskhadov said his breakaway republic intends to adopt a new, Islamic constitution.

Maskhadov and Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin did not issue statements after their meeting in Ingushetia, a Russian region bordering Chechnya, Russian news agencies said.

Although their two-year war ended in 1996, Russia and Chechnya have still not resolved their relations. Russia still considers Chechnya a Russian republic; Chechnya considers itself a fully independent nation.

Appearing on Chechen state television Saturday, Maskhadov mapped out his plans to adopt a new constitution based on the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Already, Chechnya considers itself to be an Islamic republic, and its highest court relies on Islamic law.

He said the changes would take place within three years, after which the government would hold presidential and parliamentary elections.

Maskhadov is under fire in Chechnya from opposition warlords who are seeking to remove him from office for establishing overly friendly relations with Russia, among other perceived offenses.

However, Maskhadov has adamantly insisted on Chechnya’s independence over strenuous Russian objections.

He also has been criticized for failing to establish order in the Caucasus Mountain republic, which has been plagued by kidnappings and other crimes. Maskhadov met Saturday with Ingush leader Ruslan Aushev to discuss ways to combat crime along their border, ITAR-Tass said.

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