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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK
Rights 'catastrophe' in Chechnya
Alu Alkhanov in Strasbourg
Mr Alkhanov gave a cautious welcome to plans for a peace conference
The Council of Europe said human rights in Chechnya were "catastrophic" on Thursday, just as the region's new president said things were improving.

The Council's Parliamentary Assembly said Chechen rebels, Russian troops and local security forces were all guilty of human rights abuses.

President Alu Alkhanov attended the assembly in Strasbourg just days after being sworn in.

He said Chechnya was "moving in the right direction".

Mr Alkhanov, the region's former interior minister, was the pro-Moscow candidate in elections in August.

I am not opposed to talks with groups of people that have peace in Chechnya as their objective
Alu Alkhanov
He won a landslide victory after his main rival was barred from running.

A resolution passed by the Council of Europe on Thursday said the election "did not fulfil the basic requirements for democratic elections".

Four of the last five Chechen leaders have been assassinated.

The latest to die, Mr Alkhanov's predecessor, Akhmad Kadyrov, was assassinated in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in May.

Peace conference

Mr Alkhanov said recent measures to step up law enforcement in Chechnya, and Russia more generally, were already bearing fruit.

"I think we will catch more terrorists and prevent more terrorist attacks," he said.

He also gave a cautious welcome to plans by the Council of Europe to hold a pan-Chechen peace conference later this year.

Officials said they aim to have one participant per 1,000 inhabitants of Chechnya.

"I am not opposed to talks with groups of people that have peace in Chechnya as their objective," Mr Alkhanov said.

However, he said he would not sit down with people who used armed force.

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