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Chechen Separatist Leader Wanted To Mediate Beslan Crisis --> The Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov reportedly offered to help negotiate during the Beslan hostage crisis (file photo) (AFP) 12 January 2006 -- The former president of Russia's republic of North Ossetia today said that during the 2004 Beslan school hijack crisis, then-Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov was willing to mediate between Russian authorities and the hostage-takers.

Addressing North Ossetia's Supreme Court, where one of the hostage-takers is being tried, Aleksandr Dzasokhov said Maskhadov let it be known through his London envoy, Akhmad Zakayev, that he was ready to come to Beslan for talks with members of the armed commandos who were holding 1,000 people captive.

Dzasokhov said Zakayev told him about Maskhadov's intention at midnight on 3 September 2004, one hour before Russian troops stormed the school.

The Beslan tragedy claimed more than 330 lives, including many children.

Russia blames the hostage-takers for the bloodshed. But survivors and victims' relatives question the official account of events.

(, Kavkazsky Uzel, Interfax)