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Thu 17 Feb 2011 03:18 PM

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Russia's Muslim Chechnya asks UAE to invest $2.3bn

Troubled Russian region reaches out to Muslim states, deals centre on energy, industry projects

Russia's Muslim Chechnya asks UAE to invest $2.3bn
Chechnyas Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov has asked the UAE to invest $2.3bn in the province

The leader of Russia's Chechnya
region has asked the United Arab Emirates to invest more than $2bn in the
energy and industrial sectors of the Muslim province wracked by two separatist
wars since 1994.

"I'd like to stress that our
relations with the UAE are brotherly," Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader
Ramzan Kadyrov told a visiting delegation on Wednesday. "Economic, sport
and cultural ties link us."

Kadyrov proposed 17 investment
projects for the region of just over one million people, totalling 68.89
billion roubles ($2.35bn), his press service said. It said the bulk of
investments would go towards hydropower plants.

The Kremlin credits Kadyrov with
maintaining a shaky peace in Chechnya, a decade after Russian troops drove
separatists out of power in the second of two post-Soviet wars in the province
on Russia's southern border.

But Kadyrov's critics say he is
leading a violent crackdown on opponents and enforcing his vision of Islam with
rules that sometimes violate secular Russia's constitution. He dismisses the
accusations as attempts to blacken his name.

Abu Dhabi, keen to diversify its
economy away from a reliance on oil, has been an active investor overseas. The
emirate is the largest and wealthiest in the UAE.

"We have already chosen some
projects that interest us and should be carried out. I think we will see
success," UAE delegation member Mahmood al-Mahmood said. He gave no details.

Chechnya is part of a patchwork of
mainly Muslim republics that make up Russia's volatile North Caucasus, home to
an Islamist insurgency whose most prominent leader claimed responsibility for a
suicide bombing that killed 36 people at Moscow's busiest airport last month.

The Kremlin has poured money into
the North Caucasus, where unemployment in some areas exceeds 50 percent, in the
hope of keeping the youth out of the insurgency. Moscow has budgeted 152
billion roubles for Chechnya from 2008-2012.

Fahim al Qasimi, who heads the UAE's
economic and international relations department, told Kadyrov his country
"has a huge wish and interest in developing relations with Chechnya".

Flights out of the Chechen capital
Grozny to Dubai, its first international commercial flights, will start in two
or three months, Ziyad Sabsabi, who represents Chechnya in Russia's upper house
of parliament, said.

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