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Russia: Lebed Calls For Talks To End Chechen Conflict

Moscow, 12 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - The governor of Russia's Krasnoyarsk Oblast, Aleksandr Lebed, said today that Russia should start talks with Chechen leaders to end the current conflict with the breakaway republic. Lebed, who had negotiated a peace treaty with Chechnya three years ago, said at a press conference in Moscow that Russia would face a protracted and generalized conflict in the Caucasus region if it did not negotiate now. He stopped short of saying with whom and with which Chechen leaders Moscow should negotiate. Lebed said the fighting may spread, threatening an "eternal war" such as in Afghanistan. Lebed also said that decisions about the Chechen conflict should be taken centrally, by one person. He said President Boris Yeltsin may be too ill to rule the country during the war and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should be given authority to deal with the problem.

Lebed is considered a candidate for the presidential poll next year.