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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Chechen envoy warns of bloodshed
Akhmed Zakayev
Mr Zakayev is branded a terrorist by Vladimir Putin
UK-based Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakayev has warned there could be more bloodshed unless peace talks are held.

Mr Zakayev, who was granted asylum by the UK in November, is accused of terrorism by Russia.

He said the Beslan tragedy, which has left at least 338 dead according to officials, will not be the last of the violence in the region.

Mr Zakayev, aligned with Chechen separatists, said the West must force President Vladimir Putin into talks.

At a press conference at Millbank House in central London, he said: "Putin's policy has not only not stabilised Chechnya, but has brought about a worsening of the situation.

"If Putin's policy towards Chechnya continues in the same vein, the Caucasus will radicalise even further and I am gravely concerned that more Beslans will be inevitable.

He called on western governments to make peace talks between Russia and Chechnya a "non-negotiable condition of Russia's continued status as a privileged interlocutor of the West in both trade and political forums".

The Beslan school siege saw militants, said by the Russian government to be Chechen rebels backed by foreign Muslim fighters, take more than 1,200 hostages.

Russia has offered 300m roubles ($10m; 5.7m) for information leading to the arrest of Chechen rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov.

Mr Zakayev - who is associated with Mr Maskhadov, head of the self-proclaimed Chechen government - condemned the siege.

Mr Putin has condemned both men and said he was unhappy that Chechen leaders had been granted asylum in the US and UK.

Mr Zakayev was not extradited to Russia as it was feared he would not get a fair trial on 13 charges relating to terrorism, murder and kidnappings.

He added: "I categorically refute all accusations by the Russian government that President Maskhadov had any involvement in the Beslan event."

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