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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liz to Lead Charity Charge in Chechnya

Just before last week's elections in Chechnya, an unlikely secret operative made a quiet visit to Grozny to prepare the ground for an even less likely visitor -- Elizabeth Taylor.

The operative was Shahpari Khashoggi, the Iranian wife of Saudi Arabian financier Adnan Khashoggi. She is organizing a star-studded gala charity dinner and concert to be held in Istanbul later this month.

Taylor, the quintessential Hollywood star, will be the guest of honor at the event Feb. 27, which is also her 65th birthday. After that she will visit Moscow and from here fly on to Grozny.

Khashoggi's plan is to bring the international jet set to the aid of Chechnya's war-stricken children, raising $1 million to fund a center in the Chechen capital that will provide shelter and medical help for children orphaned or wounded in the war.

Taylor is "a wonderful lady with a great concern for children," said Khashoggi. "She has donated her birthday to this occasion."

Some 1,500 guests ranging from Hollywood stars and international entertainers to assorted royalty from around the globe are expected to attend, Khashoggi said in a telephone interview with The Moscow Times from her Paris residence.

The dinner, at $1,000 per plate, will be held in a former Ottoman palace on the Bosphorus. A concert with big-name performers, a fashion show and an auction of paintings and antiques will lighten the mood -- and the pockets -- of those attending.

"We're hoping to raise $1 million," Khashoggi said. "If we need more, we'll raise more with other events. We're concerned with war-stricken people who desperately need shelter."

Among those invited are pop singers Lionel Richie and Elton John, actresses Sharon Stone and Cher, together with unspecified "British, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern and Asian royalty," Khashoggi said.

Soon after the Istanbul gala, Taylor and Khashoggi will visit Moscow and Grozny, where America's doyenne of the big screen is to be given honorary citizenship of the city.

Taylor hopes to act as "an ambassadress of goodwill" as well as "to receive the honorary citizenship of your city on behalf of the Chechen children who are the innocent victims of war," she wrote in a letter accepting the invitation that was shown to The Moscow Times.

While in Moscow, Taylor would like to meet President Boris Yeltsin, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, Mayor Yury Luzhkov and former Security Council chief Alexander Lebed, she wrote in the same Jan. 27 letter, addressed to Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who was then Chechen president.

The meetings had not yet been organized Friday. Nor were the precise dates of Taylor's visit to Moscow yet set.

The planned children's center in Grozny will have 200 to 250 beds initially, Khashoggi said, though specialized wards would be added later. Although there would likely be some foreign involvement at first, it is chiefly to be run by local staff.

"The Chechens are a very capable people," Khashoggi said. "I saw that for myself."

She spent a week in Chechnya just before the republic's recent elections Jan. 27. Traveling incognito, she saw the site on the edge of Grozny that the Chechen government is providing for her charity to use for its children's center.

"I go out of my way to see the area concerned with my own eyes so I can convince others," Khashoggi said.

The Istanbul gala is being organized through "Survive International Children's Appeal," a foundation Khashoggi established four years ago.