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Exiled Chechen Nationalist Calls New Militant Leader Moderate

Akhmed Zakaev at a press conference in London in August 2009
Akhmed Zakaev, once one of the top officials in the Chechen separatist government but currently living in British exile, has said that the man picked to take over the separatist movement is a moderate.

Zakaev said he knows Aslambek Vadalov personally and has already been in touch with him.

Zakaev described Vadalov as a moderate with no links to Islamic groups.

Vadalov was identified as the successor in a video statement by Doku Umarov in which he said he would step down as leader of the Chechen separatists for "health reasons."

Zakaev predicted that Umarov would "either be killed or taken out of the country."

Zakaev was granted U.K. asylum in 2003 but said he is considering returning to Russia to work for Chechen independence through peaceful means.

compiled from Reuters reports