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Russia: Yeltsin Says Lebed Has No Reason To Quit; Lebed Meets Chechen Leader

Moscow, 3 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin told his national security chief Aleksandr Lebed today the appointment of a presidential aide assigned to screen top military officials is not enough of a reason to resign.

A Kremlin statement says that during a 30-minute meeting with Yeltsin, Lebed challenged the recent appointment of the aide, Yuri Baturin, to the post of chairman of a commission on senior military postings.

Yeltsin insisted the appointment was well-founded. He called on Lebed to continue fulfilling his duties and to work more persistently with the Russian government.

Baturin is regarded as a hardliner on Chechnya. Security council secretary Lebed is the Kremlin's chief negotiator with the Chechen separatists. Lebed signed a key peace accord with the Chechen separatists five weeks ago.

Yeltsin says talks with rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev must be conducted "with subtlety and intelligence." Earlier today, in a radio address Yeltsin endorsed Lebed's peace efforts, saying he had "carried out my order and stopped the military action and bloodshed."

Itar-Tass reports that after conferring with President Yeltsin, Lebed met Chechen separatists leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who arrived today in Moscow.

The agency quotes Lebed's press secretary Alexander Barkhatov as saying that immediately after the meeting, Lebed and Yandarbiyev will attend further talks with a Russian government delegation, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Barkhatov did not disclose any detail on the talks between Lebed and Yandarbiyev.

However, today's meetings in Moscow are expected to focus on implementing the August 31 peace accord signed by Lebed and Chechen separatist chief of staff Aslan Mashadov. Participants are also expected to discuss the creation of an interim coalition government of both Chechen separatist and pro-Moscow representatives ahead of elections in the breakaway republic.

It is the first visit by Yandarbiyev to Moscow since the signing of the peace accord.