GROZNY, Russia (AP) – Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov is ready to give up his separatist fight and is seeking a way to negotiate with the Kremlin on his surrender, a top Chechen security official said Friday.

Maskhadov, a former Chechen president, is trying to make contact with the federal government, said Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister.

He said Maskhadov wants “to hold negotiations on how to disarm and surrender to the authorities.”

At the same time, Kadyrov, who also leads a regional security force, said he would do all he can to capture Maskhadov and Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in Russia.

Kadyrov – son of the Kremlin-backed Chechen president who was assassinated in May – has said in the past that government forces in Chechnya were close to capturing Maskhadov or securing his surrender. Several weeks ago, Kadyrov pledged to capture him within a week.

A top Kremlin aide on Chechnya, Aslambek Aslakhanov, said that Moscow would accept Maskhadov’s surrender but will not negotiate with him – in line with previous Kremlin statements.

Maskhadov was rebel military chief in the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya and was elected president after Russian forces withdrew under a deal that left the region de-facto independent.

He was driven out of power after Russian troops rolled back into Chechnya in 1999, and Russian authorities accuse him of at least indirect involvement in most of the terror attacks outside Chechnya in recent years.

AP-ES-10-22-04 1335EDT

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