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World: Putin Aide Stresses East-West Cooperation On Terrorism

United Nations, 10 December 2004 (RFE/RL) -- An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin says he's confident that recent aggravations in relations between Moscow and the West can be overcome.

In recent weeks, the Kremlin and Western capitals have sharply differed over issues such as Ukraine's disputed presidential elections and the role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in post-Soviet countries.

Russia has also criticized Western countries for what it calls "double standards" for condemning Russian actions in Chechnya but supporting the U.S.-led war on terror.

But Putin's adviser on North Caucasus affairs, Aslambek Aslakhanov, told a news conference yesterday at the United Nations that he expects such differences to be resolved through steady dialogue.

"Undoubtedly, we never say the problem of terrorism and the problem of refugees and internally displaced people do not exist. We never said so," Aslakhanov said. "But there were different points of view. Through dialogue and meetings, we figured those issues out and came to a balanced position."

Aslakhanov spoke to journalists after meeting with Javier Ruperez, chief of the new executive directorate of the UN's counterterrorism committee. He expressed satisfaction with the meeting, saying the two "spoke the same language" on how to coordinate activities to combat terrorism.
Aslakhanov has said Muslim extremists and radicals led by Shamil Basaev grew more powerful during the course of the Chechen war.

Today, Aslakhanov travels to Washington, where he is due to meet with senior officials in the national security-adviser's office, the State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security.

A native of Chechnya and a Muslim, Aslakhanov has in the past criticized some Russian military operations in the republic as excessive.

His news conference was held in a room featuring a new display of photos of the terrorist attack on a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan three months ago.

The Chechen Issue
Seeking to explain the durability of terrorism in the region, Aslakhanov has said Muslim extremists and radicals led by Shamil Basaev grew more powerful during the course of the Chechen war. They became effective, he said, at persuading young Chechens that terrorist attacks would be rewarded in the afterlife.

"The young people, who commit this [terrorist attacks], if they survive and when we interrogate them afterwards, they tell us that they have been told by emirs that they need to do this [commit terrorist attacks]; the more people they kill, the higher the probability that they will go directly to paradise," Aslakhanov said. "In other words, they [terrorists] cheat [young] people."

He also noted that the phenomenon of women suicide bombers from Chechnya is rooted in local customs that call for avenging the deaths of relatives.

But Aslakhanov also said Russian officials were slow to counteract the influence of what he called extremist Muslims in Chechnya.

"There has been no work conducted to confront, prevent and explain this," Aslakhanov said. "Therefore, it [radical Islam] spread widely. It opened a way to many terrorist attacks which were organized on the territory of the Russian Federation and Northern Caucasus."

Aslakhanov also faulted past Russian security policy in Chechnya. He said there should have been a greater emphasis on creating local law enforcement agencies, and recruiting among civilians familiar with local traditions and who could have been more effective in fighting terrorists there.

The 10th anniversary of the first deployment of Russian troops to the secessionist republic will be marked on 11 December. Human rights groups accuse Russian forces there of engaging in torture, abductions, and extrajudicial executions.

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