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Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Published at 18:00 GMT

World: Europe

Chechnya power struggle

Hardline opposition leaders in the breakaway republic of Chechnya have created a rival Islamic government to that of President Aslan Maskhadov.

At a meeting in the capital Grozny, several prominent former field commanders announced the formation of the Mehk-Shura, or State Council, which they said would govern the country according to sharia law.

Secular parliament stripped of powers

The meeting took place as President Maskhadov was convening his own Islamic State Council which he created last week, stripping the secular parliament of its legislative powers and abolished the post of vice president.

However this backfired when Vice-President Vakha Arsanov refused to step down and said he would not leave office unless President Maskhadov also resigned.

[ image: President Maskhadov: Facing calls to resign]
President Maskhadov: Facing calls to resign
Opposition leaders seeking the full adoption of Islamic law also renewed their calls for Mr Maskhadov's resignation.

'No such words as president or parliament'

One of the members of the republic's top Islamic body, the Shura, and a well-known field commander, Movladi Udugov, said: "There should be no such words as president, parliament or constitution in the state that lives under sharia."

He said the field commanders had elected Mr Maskhadov to be a member of the 35-member council, but he would have to give up his presidency if he wanted to join.

Mr Maskhadov commanded Chechen fighters during the southern republic's 1994-96 independence war with Russia, and won his position by a wide margin. But his enemies, with large groups of armed followers under their command, also enjoy broad support.

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