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Chechen Rebels Form Islamic Govt.

February 9, 1999

GROZNY, Russia (AP) _ Opposition leaders set up a rival Islamic government Tuesday that they say will replace secular rule in the breakaway republic.

The opposition established a state council to govern Chechnya in line with Islamic law, which was declared last week by President Aslan Maskhadov.

Maskhadov, giving in to the opposition, disbanded the parliament and abolished the post of vice president. He also called for an Islamic constitution be drafted.

But the move appeared to backfire, isolating Maskhadov further with the opposition making more demands. The parliament and the vice president refused to step aside.

The opposition has sought to establish an Islamic state since the republic won de-facto independence from Russia in a 1994-96 war.

The president’s Islamic law decree _ whatever the outcome of the opposition’s move for an Islamic government _ will change all aspects of Chechnya’s life, the Interfax news agency has reported.

But it isn’t clear whether the opposition seeks a strict version of Islamic rule _ such as that imposed by Afghanistan’s Taliban _ or whether it intends a milder version.

``There should be no such words as president, parliament or constitution″ in an Islamic state, said opposition leader Movladi Udugov.

He said the opposition had elected Maskhadov to be a member of the 35-member council, but he would have to give up the presidency to join.

Maskhadov, a rebel military leader during the Chechen war, remains widely popular in the southern republic. But so do his foes, who control large groups of armed followers.

Opposition leaders, who accuse Maskhadov of being too sympathetic toward Russia, frequently use political violence and kidnappings in attempts to weaken his authority.

Chechnya has run its own affairs since Russian troops left, but no country recognizes its claims of independence.

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