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February 20, 2003
US blacklists Chechen warlord
By Maria Tsvetkova

In the run-up to the next round of talks in the UN Security Council on a second resolution on Iraq the Justice Department of the United States has added three Chechen terrorist groups to its black list of terror networks. By persuading the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov not to stand in the way of US military action against Iraq, Congressman Thomas Lantos promised that Washington would soon add the names of other terror groups active in the Northern Caucasus to the list.

That the US has eventually agreed to put three Chechen terrorist groups headed by the notorious separatist warlord Shamil Basayev on its list of international terrorist organizations came to light in late January, but only on Wednesday did the US officially announced its decision. The prominent US Congressman Tom Lantos of California made the statement during his meeting with Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov, at which they discussed the nuances of the Russo-American relationship in the context of the Iraqi crisis.

During their talks the Russian minister learnt a lot of pleasant things from his interlocutor. As a member of the Congress International Affairs Committee, Lantos said he had personally tabled a draft calling for the abolition of the notorious Jackson-Vanik amendment and said he hopes that the bill would be passed.

The congressman also added that the US very much counts on Russia as an intermediary in settling the North Korea crisis. And, of course, in their conversation Lantos could not avoid the priority issue, stating that the US has no intention of reversing its plans for a military operation against Iraq, even if some of the Security Council members veto the decision. Ivanov, however, stuck to Russias official line.

''Maturity of relations reveals itself when complicated tasks are solved rather than easy ones,'' Igor Ivanov noted. According to Ivanov, the Iraq situation is undoubtedly one of these problems. The minister expressed the hope that, ''through a concerted effort, a solution to the Iraq problem will be found which will make it possible to consolidate stability in the world''.

For his part, Tom Lantos informed Ivanov that Washington has kept its word the Justice Department has included three terror groups founded by Shamil Bsayev in its blacklist of international terror organizations. They are a Chechen battalion of shahids called Riadus-Salikhin, the Congress of Peoples of Ichkeria and Dagestan, and the chief governing body of the Basayev-led wing of separatists the so-called higher military majlisul shura. Furthermore, Lantos assured Ivanov that the US authorities consider adding other terror organizations currently active in the North Caucasus to the list.

Pro-Moscow Chechens hailed the US move on Wednesday. ''If the United States has actually placed three extremist organizations active in Chechnya on its terrorist lists, this proves that Moscow is in fact receiving support in the fight against terrorism from its foreign partners and that the federal authorities' strategy is effective,'' Rudnik Dudayev, chief of the republican Security Council told Interfax.

''It is important that many countries, including the United States, are clearly aware of the fact that international terrorists have been doing everything in their power to spread chaos and incite instability in Chechnya over the past few years,'' he said. ''It is time to put an end to international terrorists' plans for Chechnya. Russia's partners from the anti-terrorism coalition will help in this effort,'' Dudayev noted.

The Russian Federal Security Service also welcomed the US decision. ''This is a positive trend in the fight against international terrorism. If other countries follow the US example and stop drawing lines between terrorism and organizations, then they (terrorists) will not able to hide and avoid punishment in any civilized country,'' the FSB spokesman Colonel Sergei Ignatchenko said.

''If the international community manages to put together a single list of international terrorist organizations, this will be a step towards creating global anti-terror legislation,'' the official added.

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