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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 10:45 GMT
Chechen plan discussed in London
Valentina Melnikova, Russian soldiers' mothers leader
Soldiers' mothers offered to mediate in Chechnya peace talks
Russian soldiers' mothers have met Chechen rebel representatives at a London hotel in a new effort to end the decade-long war in Chechnya.

Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev handed them peace proposals from rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, who is on Russia's wanted list.

The Russian foreign ministry expressed scepticism about the meeting.

The Moscow-backed Chechen authorities in Grozny dismissed the London talks as meaningless.

The leaders of the Union of Russian Soldiers' Mothers Committees are expected to study the proposals and then meet Mr Zakayev again to make a final draft.

Details of the initiative have not been released, but the Russian Gazeta.ru news website reports that it envisages a gradual cessation of attacks by the rebels.

Scepticism

The Russian foreign ministry said "the desire of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees to use any opportunity to prevent new acts of terrorism and hostage-taking in the Caucasus is understandable".

"At the same time, it is hard to expect any concrete results from this meeting, because the bandits operating in the Chechen republic are unlikely to refrain from their terrorist methods," it said.

A spokesman for the pro-Moscow Chechen government said that Grozny "does not need such advocates as [soldiers' mothers leader Valentina] Melnikova".

The meeting was due to take place in Belgium last November, but it was cancelled because the soldiers' mothers had difficulty obtaining Belgian visas.



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