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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
Chechen rebel issues new threats
Aslan Maskhadov
Maskhadov promises Vladimir Putin a "permanent headache"
Chechnya's rebel leader has vowed that the next president of the troubled region will be assassinated quickly.

Aslan Maskhadov said whoever wins a new poll would "be in power only until the arm of the mujahideen reaches him".

He also said he had enough men and means to fight Russian forces in the breakaway region for another 20 years.

Mr Maskhadov's comments on a separatist website follow the killing of Chechnya's Moscow-backed president, Akhmad Kadyrov, in May.

"Whoever occupies this puppet's chair - his days are numbered. He'll be in power only until the arm of the mujahideen reaches him," Mr Maskhadov said in a video interview on the Kavkaz Center website.

Whoever wins elections next month, "his end will be the same if he comes to power with a Russian constitution and policy", he threatened.

'Not frightened'

But the man the Kremlin is backing for the post, Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov, dismissed the threat.

There are sufficient forces... to fight for another 20 years without us over-exerting ourselves
Aslan Maskhadov
"They have wanted to kill me since 1991," he said.

"We have a good Russian saying: if you're frightened of the woods, don't go in."

Mr Kadyrov was killed in an explosion during a military celebration in the Chechen capital Grozny on 9 May.

Last month a rebel attack on the neighbouring Russian republic of Ingushetia killed about 90 people.

Mr Maskhadov, who was elected president of Chechnya during a brief period of de facto independence in the 1990s, said his fighters were far from finished.

"There are sufficient forces... to fight for another 20 years without us over-exerting ourselves," he said.

"We must force out Russians from our country. This is our duty. There should be no 'elections'. The people know this."

Warning to Putin

Russia has 70,000 troops and other security forces in the republic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to crush the rebels and says there will be no negotiation with Mr Maskhadov.

But the rebel leader warned Moscow could not win the war.

"If they do not seek peace, then they will develop a permanent headache," he said.

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