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Putin Rules Out Beslan Public Inquiry

7 September 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has ruled out holding a public inquiry into the Beslan school siege that killed more than 330 people.

Putin, in an interview with Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper and other foreign correspondents, said he would instead hold an "internal" inquiry to find out how the North Ossetian school was seized by gunmen and who might be punished.

Putin said he would not object if the Russian parliament decided to set up its own inquiry, but said he was worried it could become a "political show."

Putin again rejected talks with Chechen separatist rebels, comparing them to Osama bin Laden. Putin said he did not believe there was any connection between the Beslan events and Russian policies in Chechnya. The Russian president did not agree that a "war" was continuing in Chechnya, describing the situation instead as a "smoldering conflict."

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are expected to attend an antiterrorism rally in Moscow today on the second day of national mourning in Russia.

Scores of school children were among more than 100 victims of the siege who were buried yesterday in Beslan, in the republic of North Ossetia which borders Chechnya.

A man authorities say is a captured hostage-taker said on Russian state-run television that he was told that Chechen separatists Shamil Basaev and Aslan Maskhadov had ordered the seizure of the school.

The man said he was told the goal of the attack was to unleash a war in the whole of the Caucasus.

There was no way to confirm the accuracy of the detainee's comments.

("The Guardian"/Agencies)

For full coverage on the recent wave of terror attacks in Russia, see RFE/RL's webpage on "Terror In Russia".

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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