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UPDATED: 13:48, August 30, 2004
Alkhanov rules out talks with Chechen rebels
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Pro-Moscow Alu Alkhanov, the front-runner in Sunday's presidential race in Chechnya, reaffirmed his stand on Monday that no negotiations will be held with Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov or other notorious extremists, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

"Maskhadov and Wahhabism have no future in Chechnya," Alkhanov confirmed, adding that the Chechen people had made such a choice when they elected Akhmad Kadyrov president last October.

Alkhanov's remarks came shortly after the Chechen election commission assured his landslide victory in the Sunday vote, which was held to replace the Kremlin-backed Kadyrov who was killed in aterrorist bomb blast on May 9.

The 47-year-old Chechen interior minister has got 74.1 percent of the ballots in the poll after 74.1 percent of the votes were counted as of 04:15 Moscow time (0015 GMT), leaving his six other rivals far behind.

Alkhanov, a favorite of both Russian President Vladimir Putin's government and the Chechen administration, has vowed to carry on Kadyrov's policies, and to treat security and social stability as top priorities while trying to restore the tattered economy and improve people's life.

As a staunch Kremlin ally in the fight against Chechen separatists, the tough-talking minister has insisted that he wouldnot hold negotiations with Maskhadov but would try to make rebels surrender.

"All talks about Maskhadov's mythical legitimacy are simply out of place," Alkhanov was quoted by Ita-Tass as saying Monday.

Maskhadov threatened early this month that the winner of the Chechen presidential election and officials in the new administration will become the next assassination targets. He alsothreatened to increase attacks outside the breakaway republic.

However, Alkhanov pledged Monday that even if he was killed, "another man will come and continue our course of terminating terrorism, Wahhabism and banditism," Itar-Tass reported.

Chechnya won de-facto independence in 1996 after the pullout of Russian troops. Federal soldiers returned to the lawless republic in September 1999 and a guerrilla war between Chechen rebels and Russian forces continues to claim lives almost on a daily basis and occasionally spreads into neighboring regions.

Maskhadov, a former Chechen president, has been in hiding since the start of the second Chechen war.

The Sunday vote, significant to Moscow's decade-old effort to bring the rebellious Muslim province back under central control, was held amid high concerns over rebel attacks.

No major violence has been reported so far despite a man who blew himself up outside a polling station on the voting day.

No one else was injured in the incident which Chechen authorities has categorized as a crime rather than a terrorist attack.

Source: Xinhua

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