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Tajikistan: Rebel Warlord Says He's Ready to Step Down

Kurgan-Tyube, Tajikistan; 14 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - A rebel Tajik warlord says he will abide by a presidential decree and resign from his post as commander of an elite rapid reaction brigade.

But Makhmud Khudoberdiyev told Itar-Tass today that he will relinquish his post only if government troops are pulled back from his southern Tajik stronghold of Kurgan Tyube. However, in later comments to AFP, Khudoberdiyev suggested he had resigned without any preconditions.

Yesterday, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov signed a decree dismissing Khudoberdiyev after accusing the rebel warlord of staging a coup attempt. Forces loyal to Khudoberdiyev have been involved in clashes with government forces since Saturday. Most of the fighting has taken place south of Dushanbe near Kurgan Tyube. Last night, the Khatlon Defense Council, largely created by the mutinous colonel, rejected the decree and called on Khudoberdiyev to remain in command.

Today, a presidential commission established to deal with the crisis arrived in Kurgan Tyube for talks with the rebel warlord. Itar-Tass says no agreement has yet been reached on disarming the mutinous fighters deployed in Kurgan Tyuban.