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#10 - JRL 7246
U.S. encouraged by efforts towards political settlement in Chechnya - ambassador

MOSCOW. July 14 (Interfax) - U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow described as encouraging the steps taken by Russian authorities to develop a political process in Chechnya.

"We hope that the Russian authorities will continue to take all the necessary steps to make a real turning point in the Chechen conflict," Vershbow said in an interview with Interfax.

"The more the political process succeeds, the more the terrorists will be marginalized," he said.

America deems as very important the steps the Russian authorities are taking to prepare for the presidential elections in Chechnya in October, Vershbow said.

"But at the same time, we think considerable additional effort will be needed to create the conditions for successful elections that can represent a real turning point in the Chechen conflict," he said.

"There needs to be continued effort to implement the amnesty that has been offered to Chechens who have not committed the most serious crimes, so that more and more of those who support the fighters can be persuaded to join the political process and renounce violence " Vershbow said.

There also needs to be continued progress on economic issues, such as the payment of "compensations for those who lost homes, and economic reconstruction, and the creation of new jobs," he said.

"Of course, the electoral process itself needs to be open to all candidates, and they should all have access to the media," the ambassador said.

It is also important, "as President Putin recently emphasized, that Russian soldiers, Russian security forces who have committed violence against the civilian population be held to account," he said.

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