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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK
Chechens told to break with Bin Laden
Chechen rebels
Russia describes Chechen rebels as terrorists
By BBC Washington correspondent John Leyne

The White House has called on Chechen rebels to cut all ties with international terrorist groups.

The move comes less than two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave strong support to Washington for its campaign against terrorism.

The move comes less than two days after President Putin promised Russian help in any forthcoming action in Afghanistan

But a White House spokesman has denied any link between the two moves.

Russia has always described the rebels it is fighting against in Chechnya as terrorists.

So following the attack on Washington and New York two weeks ago, the Russian Government has argued that its campaign in Chechnya should be treated in the same way as the United States' campaign against global terrorism.

The Americans have never accepted that characterisation and in the past have criticised Russia for abusing human rights in Chechnya.

But now the White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, has issued a statement calling on the Chechen rebels to cut all links with international terrorism, particularly with Osama Bin Laden.

Deal denied

The move comes less than two days after President Putin promised Russian help in any forthcoming action in Afghanistan.

Many people in Washington suspect a deal has been done.

That has been denied by Mr Fleischer. No such conclusion should be reached, he said.

Nevertheless it appears clear the US will have to make compromises in support of what has become its overwhelming top foreign policy priority, the campaign against terror.

See also:

26 Sep 01 | Europe
Chechen leader 'agrees to talks'
06 Sep 01 | Europe
Chechnya's decade of disaster
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