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Russia: Lebed Wants Wider Powers To Resolve Chechen Conflict

Moscow, August 12 (RFE/RL) - Russian security chief Aleksandr Lebed wants wide-ranging powers so he can resolve the conflict in Chechnya.

Lebed made the call at a press conference in Moscow following his talks with separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov in Chechnya last night.

The measures would include abolishing the state commission for Chechnya, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and extending his own powers as security council chief, he said.

The situation in Chechnya is out of hand, he said, and Russian troops are ill equipped, ill fed and are simply being used as cannon fodder.

Lebed said his talks with Maskhadov were successful and that the two had agreed on a variety of peace measures.

He said the first step would be persuade the rebels to withdraw from Grozny and get the Russian forces back to their bases. Then, a no- fire zone could be established.

A Congress of the Chechen People would then be set up, he said. The function and responsibilities of the congress are not clear.

The rebels said earlier that Lebed's proposal was a new approach with which they broadly agreed.

It is not clear how President Boris Yeltsin will respond to Lebed's call for more power. A statement from Yeltsin's office earlier today said he agreed with Lebed's plan.

Lebed, a long-time critic of the war in Chechnya, was appointed as Yeltsin's special envoy to the region on Saturday.

Maskhadov said he would accept a status for Chechnya within the Russian Federation similar to the one given to Tatarstan, said Lebed. Tatarstan has wide-ranging powers of autonomy which stop short of complete independence. There was no direct word on this from the Chechen side.

Maskhadov also held talks on the telephone with Konstantin Pulikovsky, Russian acting commander in chief in Chechnya. Lebed said the two discussed the withdrawal of Chechen fighters from Grozny and the setting up of no-fire zones.

An RFE/RL correspondent reports that Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev welcomed today's meeting between Lebed and Maskhadov.