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Tajikistan: Government Includes Strongman On Negotiating Team

Dushanbe, 24 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Tajik Presidential Spokesman Zafar Saidov says the Tajik government has decided to include Colonel Mahmud Khudayberdiev, the military strongman of the southern city of Kurgonteppa, in its delegation to negotiate details of the peace accord with the Tajik opposition.

The presidential spokesman is quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent. The next round of the peace talks are expected to start this Wednesday in Moscow.

Last year, Khudayberdiev's forces advanced on the capital threatening to overthrow the Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov's government. He later withdrew after some of his demands, including the removal of some key leaders were met. And last month, Khudayberdiev, ignoring warnings of the president, moved to the eastern city of Tursunzode and took control of the city's important aluminium plant.

More than four years of conflict in Tajikistan has claimed some 50,000 lives. A ceasefire agreed late last year appears to be holding, but regional and clan armed groups with unclear loyalties remain active.