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Chechnya: Lebed Proposes 10-Year Delay On Issue Of Political Status

Moscow, 30 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's national security chief Aleksandr Lebed says he has proposed that a decision on Chechnya's political status be postponed for 10 years.

Lebed arrived today in Khasavyurt in the north Caucasus republic of Dagestan for talks with Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev and his military commander Aslan Maskhadov.

Itar-Tass news agency says Lebed told reporters aboard his plane from Moscow that he had proposed delaying the question of Chechnya's status for 10 years during a meeting in Moscow yesterday with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other senior officials.

Lebed said officials at the meeting authorized him to sign a joint protocol with the Chechen separatists during today's talks which would form the basis of a political settlement. He said Chernomyrdin signed the draft protocal.

Lebed said there was no serious opposition to his peace plan for Chechnya during yesterday's meeting. But Chernomyrdin's spokesman, Viktor Konnov, said Lebed's proposals need "serious improvement."

Lebed said he spoke by phone yesterday with President Boris Yeltsin about his efforts in Chechnya, but he refused to give details of the conversation.

Interfax quotes the Chechen separatist command as saying Chechen leaders met last night and expressed their willingness for what it called "reasonable compromises" on the republic's status.

In Chechnya, the Russian troop withdrawal from the capital Grozny is continuing. A spokesman for Russian Interior Ministry troops told Interfax that about 3,500 soldiers pulled out of the city yesterday. The spokesman said another 2,000 troops would withdraw by tomorrow.