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Chechnya: Congress Approves Referendum For March 2003

Gudermes, Russia; 11 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A congress of pro-Moscow Chechens meeting in Gudermes today approved holding a referendum for a new constitution in March next year. The congress, which did not include representatives from all Chechen factions or separatist groups, adopted a statement declaring that Chechnya is an integral part of Russia that wants to be an equal member of the Russian Federation in accordance with the Russian Constitution.

There was some debate over whether Chechnya should be a presidential or parliamentary republic, but the majority voted for a presidential republic. They also rejected holding any talks with the separatists.

Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow head of the Chechen Republic, presided over the congress but declined to answer if he would run for the republic's presidency.