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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Putin rejects 'child-killer talks'
Vladimir Putin
Putin is under growing pressure in the wake of the Beslan deaths
Russia's president has attacked those calling for Russia to enter talks with Chechen separatists after the Beslan school siege, where at least 335 died.

Vladimir Putin also rejected a public inquiry into events that led to special forces storming the school on Friday.

He told two British newspapers that entering talks was akin to the West negotiating with Osama Bin Laden.

Meanwhile, thousands of Russians are expected to attend anti-terror rallies on Tuesday, as Beslan buries more dead.

Forensic specialists are to begin DNA testing of the 107 bodies so badly damaged by fire and explosions that they remain unidentified.

Rising concern

"No-one has a moral right to tell us to talk to child killers," Mr Putin was quoted as saying by Britain's Guardian and Independent newspapers.

You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?
Vladimir Putin

He added: "Why don't you meet Osama Bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?

"You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?"

The Guardian quoted Mr Putin as saying he would hold an inquiry into Beslan, but not a public one.

"I want to establish the chronicle of events and find out who is responsible and might be punished," the paper reported him as saying.

The comments came against a backdrop of rising concern about the events that led to the bloody end to the siege on Friday.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin joined calls by Russian papers for answers amid concern the authorities tried to play down the scale of the tragedy.

More than 200 people are still unaccounted for following the storming of the school buildings by Russian special forces.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had expressed Britain's "deep sympathy and horror" at the Beslan deaths, during in a conversation with Mr Putin.

"We live in a world where this form of terrorism without limits... can affect any country in the world," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Britain was "absolutely united in defeating that sort of terrorism", Mr Blair added.

Journalists 'detained'

Meanwhile, Russia's newspapers have also been asking questions about the Kremlin's handling of the siege.

Relatives at the coffin of one of the school siege victims in Beslan
More than 100 families buried their loved ones on Monday

Even normally pro-Putin papers, such as Moskovsky Komsomolets, are critical of the government's handling of the crisis.

The editor of one of Russia's biggest newspapers, Izvestia, said he was forced to resign on Monday because the paper's coverage was considered too emotional.

Arabic television station, al-Arabiya, says its Moscow correspondent was arrested on his return from Beslan, and Georgia says two of its journalists had been detained.

Meanwhile, military analyst Dr Jonathan Eyal told BBC News Online it was "staggering" that 40% of all the hostages were killed and another 40% injured.

This was "much worse than in any other mass hostage crisis in living memory", said Mr Eyal, Director of Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Broadcasters are urging Russians to take to the streets to rally against terrorism, with a major demo planned near Moscow's Red Square expected to attract up to 100,000.

The calls come on the second day of national mourning for the dead.

Anti-Ingush protest

BBC correspondents in Beslan say anger in the town, with a population of some 30,000, is being directed at neighbouring Ingushetia.

Although it remains unclear who the hostage-takers were, many Ossetians are convinced extremists from its long-standing rival were involved.

An anti-Ingush demonstration is planned for the North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz on Tuesday.

Federal troops are reported to have enforced the border between the two republics.

Also in Beslan, large crowds of people desperate for news are expected to attend a meeting in the town's central square to address the problem of the 200 or so hostages who are still unaccounted for.

Fresh graves were being prepared overnight at the town's cemetery for more funerals.

The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"Hundreds of children are being treated for burns and gunshot wounds"

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