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Dudayev Calls For Direct Talks With Yeltsin

Moscow, April 8 (RFE/RL) - Chechen rebelleader Dzhokhar Dudayev has proposed direct talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin to settle the Chechen crisis.

AFP reported yesterday that Dudayev met press correspondents in his mountain hideaway in southern Chechnya and said direct negotiations with the Kremlin would be the "most effective way" of ending the 16-month-old conflict in the breakway republic.

The Chechen leader was also reported to have said that he doubted Mintimer Shaymiyev, President of the Russian republic of Tartarstan, could successfully mediate. Yeltsin said Saturday he had appointed Shaymiyev and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazaybayev as Chechen mediators

Dudayev also proposed direct negotiations with Yeltsin in a phone call to Duma Deputy Konstantin Borovoy in Moscow. Borovoy told RFE/RL today Dudayev said that he would agree to negotiate with General Boris Gromov - an Afghan war veteran - and presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinsky as well, if they were named as Yeltsin's representatives

Borovoy told RFE/RL that Dudayev charged that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is not loyal to Yeltsin and must be fired.

Earlier today, Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Medvedev said that the president is still hopeful that third-party negotiations will be fruitful. Yeltsin has not yet commented on Dudayev's latest overtures. A spokesman for Chernomyrdin (Viktor Konnov) says he will have a response later.

Meanwhile, Russian troops today were reported continuing "special operations" against chechen rebels.