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    PUTIN PROPOSES HOLDING A THREE-SIDED MEETING TO DISCUSS RETURN OF REFUGEES TO NORTH OSSETIA

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    MOSCOW, March 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Putin has proposed holding a meeting with the participation of the Presidents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia (Russian neighbor republics in the North Caucasus) and to discuss the problem of the return of refugees to North Ossetia.

    "I think it would be better to get together with you and the head of Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov, and to discuss the situation in this sphere," said Putin at a meeting with North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov on Thursday.

    Commenting on the situation around the Ossetian-Ingush conflict, the Russian president said: "Positive steps have been taken, it's true. I want to thank and to congratulate you that such an atmosphere has been created. However, this is not enough." In his turn, Mr. Dzasokhov noted that quite a different "psychological atmosphere" has now been created in the region between the Ossetians and the Ingushes.

    He specially spoke about close cooperation between many ministries and government departments of the two republics. However, he said that he did expect that the public opinion in North Ossetia and Ingushetia would so rapidly meet us halfway.

    The conflict between the Ossetians and the Ingushes dates back to the end of 1980s and the beginning of 1990s. Terrorist acts and blood-shedding clashes on an ethnic ground resulted in the death of hundreds of people, and thousands of Ingush families were forced to leave their houses in North Ossetia.

    Alexander Dzasokhov also told Vladimir Putin about the economic situation in the republic.

    Since 2000, industrial production in North Ossetia has grown by 10-11 percent, said Mr. Dzasokhov. "The task for today is to fit in with the solution of the problem of doubling Russia's Gross Domestic Product within ten years," he underscored. North Ossetia is an industrial republic, therefore, we have a chance to do it, Alexander Dzasokhov said.

    According to him, all payments to the pensioners and the disabled are made in time.

    Two thousand people are analyzing the material situation in every family in North Ossetia. They find out the number of the members in the family, how many of them work and if some of them do not work they try to learn why and ask what aid is needed, said the President.

    Alexander Dzasokhov also underscored that 4,000 war and labor veterans in the republic enjoyed the services offered by health-building establishments of late. "We shall continue to help them," he underscored. But now, he added, his task is to pay attention also to the young generation.

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