PEACE PROCESS IN CHECHNYA IS IRREVERSIBLE

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SOCHI, March 26, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin believes the peace process in Chechnya has become irreversible.

"Armed resistance and conflicts are becoming history. The peaceful process is getting irreversible in the most complex area, the Chechen Republic," the president said as addressing a meeting of the Public Forum of the Peoples of the Caucasus and Southern Russia.

"This means that we have preserved Russia's territorial integrity, that we are ensuring our nationals' constitutional rights and are promoting economic growth," said Mr Putin.

"I would like to say that through common efforts we have consolidated stability in the North Caucasus, the region, where discords of the post-Soviet period were particularly acute," said the president.

Mr Putin praised traditional Muslim leaders for countering attempts to impose radical ideology on the peoples of the North Caucasus.

"Traditional Muslim leaders' activity is particularly important today. Their authority and the holy word have countered attempts to impose on the peoples of the North Caucasus foreign radical ideology, which rests on distorted Islam, on attempts to use Islam as a cover for mercenary and aggressive motives," said Mr Putin.

The Russian leader believes the North Caucasus is an investment friendly area.

"Rhetoric that the North Caucasus is a dangerous place unattractive for investment is no longer valid. It is like any other Russian region, or even more investment attractive than many of them," believes President Putin.

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