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Talks to End Russian School Seige Continues - 2004-09-02

Russian officials say there has been little progress in talks with militants holding more than 300 people hostage inside a school in North Ossetia. The talks were held as the hostages spent a difficult night inside the school's gymnasium.

Officials maintained telephone contact with the militants for nearly three hours, through the night. They say the militants rejected an offer of safe passage out of the region and a request to exchange adults for the more than 100 children being held.

The heavily-armed attackers stormed into the school, Wednesday, during a ceremony to mark the first day of classe in the new school year.

Some are wearing suicide bomb belts and have threatened to set off the explosives, if Russian troops make any attempt to storm the building.

Outside on the school grounds, hundreds of anguished parents kept an all-night vigil, at times pleading with soldiers to do whatever possible to free their children.

There are conflicting reports about the militants demands. Wednesday, they wanted to talk with the president of North Ossetia and sought freedom for other rebels jailed in nearby Ingushetia.

They are also reported to be calling for all Russian troops be withdrawn from Chechnya.