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Russia: Reaction To Chechen Election Continues

Moscow, 30 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says the desire of Aslan Maskhadov, the recently-elected Chechen president, to speed up the determination of the republic's political status, does not contradict last summer's peace accord.

Lebed's press secretary Aleksandr Barkhatov told Itar-Tass the accord, signed last August, only indicates a deadline, thus implying that a decision can be made earlier.

In an interview with Itar-Tass published earlier today Maskhadov said that although the accord delayed a resolution of the republic's status for five years, "it would be appropriate to begin solving it as soon as possible."

Moscow says it will not tolerate secession and insists that Chechnya remain part of Russia.

But Ivan Rybkin, current Security Council Secretary, is expressing optimism that the two sides can work out their remaining differences. In an interview published today in the government's newspaper "Rossiiskaya Gazeta," Rybkin again reiterated that Moscow plans to adhere to the Chechen peace accord. But he also said Moscow intends to reach agreements with Chechnya on "special economic relations" and delineation of authority between the two sides.

Maskhadov will be sworn in on February 10. Ruslan Kutayev, the organizer of the inauguration, told Interfax today Russian officials as well as officials from the Arab world have been invited.

Meanwhile in Copenhagen. Niels Helveg Petersen, current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said Monday's Chechen elections were impressive testimony to Chechen determination to have democracy. Petersen said he will talk about future OSCE presence in Chechnya with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov when Primakov visits Copenhagen late next month.