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North Ossetian Mufti Offers To Resign After Controversial Statements

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- The leader of the Muslim community in the Russian republic of North Ossetia has offered his resignation following controversial statements he made in an interview earlier this month, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Some of the comments Mufti Ali-Hadji Yevteyev made to the Regnum news agency on May 2 -- in particular revelations about his contacts with Anzor Astemirov and Musa Mukozhev, who subsequently became leading members of the Islamist insurgency in the volatile North Caucasus -- have been roundly condemned by Muslim clergy in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia.

The North Ossetian prosecutor's office has tasked experts with determining whether any of Yevteyev's statements are "extremist" and whether his disparaging comments about unnamed Orthodox priests who "have blocked people's path to God" fall under the category of "inciting interconfessional enmity."

Yevteyev, 36, is an ethnic Russian who converted to Islam in late 1996. He publicly apologized to Russian Orthodox clergy in North Ossetia for his statements in his Regnum interview, claiming that the interview was rather a "discussion" not intended for publication.