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Chechen Rebel Says Truce Could Pave Way For Talks

7 February 2005 -- Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov says he hopes his order for a unilateral cease-fire will lead to peace talks with Russia.

Maskhadov said in an interview published by the Russian newspaper "Kommersant-Daily" today that he named a spokesman abroad, Umar Khambiev, as head of a delegation for talks with Moscow.

Maskhadov is quoted as saying he hopes for an "adequate response" from Russia's government. And he added that "if our Kremlin opponents display sober reason, the war will end at the negotiating table."

The Kremlin has issued no public response, and Chechnya's Russian-backed government has called the cease-fire order a bluff and a publicity stunt.

Last month, a rebel website carried statements by Maskhadov and militant leader Shamil Basaev ordering that all offensive actions be halted in February.

A spokeswoman for Chechnya's Interior Ministry, Liliya Tengieva, told AP that rebels appeared to be observing the cease-fire.