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Alkhanov: No Immediate Government Changes In Chechnya --> 30 August 2004 -- Chechnya's incoming president, Alu Alkhanov, announced today there will be no abrupt reshuffle in the Chechen cabinet and other governing structures after he takes power.

Alkhanov made the statement shortly after the election commission said the interior minister in the Moscow-backed Chechen administration was the "absolute leader" in the separatist republic's presidential election.

Officials said the voter turnout was nearly 80 percent, but little activity was seen at some polling stations.

The European Union presidency today called for a new push for peace in Chechnya. The Dutch Foreign Minister Barnard Bot -- whose country holds the current EU presidency -- said Alkhanov should start a dialogue on reconciliation in the republic.

However, Alkhanov rejected any negotiations with rebels.

"I have never talked about the possibility of talks with [Chechen separatist leader Aslan] Maskhadov, whoever would hold those talks. At least my position is clear: he should apologize to his people, stop bothering them today, and let them be in peace," Alkhanov said.

At least two rivals of Alkhanov, Abdulla Bugaev and Movsur Khamidov, have alleged irregularities in the voting. A Council of Europe representative in Grozny, Andreas Gross, told the German dpa news agency the vote was "undemocratic."

The election was denounced as a farce by Chechen separatists, who have vowed to oppose Alkhanov.

The poll was called after the May assassination of Moscow-backed President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov.