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Last Updated:  Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 02:23 GMT
US blacklists Chechen groups
By Nick Childs
BBC correspondent in Washington

The United States has announced it has designated three Chechen rebel groups as terrorist organisations.

Russia has been pressing Washington to take such a step for more than a year.

As part of the move, any assets the groups may own in the US will be frozen.

Russian special forces help a hostage to leave the theatre
The US links the groups with the Moscow hostage siege
A statement from the US State Department set out the decision to designate the three organisations as terrorist groups, a decision it said was taken by US Secretary of State Colin Powell two weeks ago.

It described the groups as violent, responsible for numerous acts of terrorism and links to the al-Qaeda network.

It also said they had threatened US citizens, national security and foreign policy interests and it linked all three to the Moscow theatre standoff in October in which 129 people died when Russian special forces stormed the building.

The US has denied that the timing of this decision is linked to US efforts to win Russian support for a new UN resolution on Iraq.

The US statement also reaffirmed Washington's support for a political settlement to the Chechen conflict and urged Russia to pursue such a solution.

The three banned groups are the Islamic International Brigade, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment and the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs.

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