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Sunday, December 27, 1998 Published at 06:38 GMT

World: Europe

Yeltsin pledges to tackle anti-Semitism

President Yeltsin: Back in the Kremlin after his latest health scare

President Yeltsin has pledged to launch a major offensive against anti-Semitism in Russia.

Russia crisis
In his first television interview since two months of hospital treatment for pneumonia, Mr Yeltsin looked remarkably fit and at ease, smiling and joking with his interviewer.

He said a new law would be introduced to counter extremist behaviour.

"I am preparing an offensive on this front, a powerful offensive," the Russian president said. He gave no details.

[ image: Communist MP Viktor Ilyukhin attacked Boris Yeltsin for appointing Jews as ministers]
Communist MP Viktor Ilyukhin attacked Boris Yeltsin for appointing Jews as ministers
The president was reacting to unease within Russia over an increasing number of openly anti-Semitic speeches by senior Communist party figures.

Earlier this month Russia's human rights commissioner rejected calls to prosecute Communist MPs who made the remarks, saying most Russians agreed with them.

Boris Yeltsin pledged to retain freedom of speech (in Russian)
Mr Yeltsin also pledged he would protect freedom of speech by all possible means and again forcefully rejected suggestions that ill health could see him leave before scheduled in the year 2000.

"No, no, no and once again no," he said when asked if he might resign before the end of his term.

Backing for premier

He expressed his full satisfaction with Yevgeny Primakov, whom he called "the most effective and most trustworthy prime minister".

"He is supported by the president, the government by the State Duma (lower house of parliament) and by the regional authorities," he said.

He said Mr Primakov would be the one to pull Russia out of the economic crisis.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin also reiterated his opposition to the US-UK air strikes on Iraq, describing the action as "inadmissible" and called for a new global order.

"We are against one or two countries throwing their weight around," he said, in calling for a new global order.

"We are in favour of multipolarity, I mean several poles in the world which accumulate power and on whose forces other countries rely."

President Yeltsin could visit France next month on what would be his first trip abroad since he fell ill during a tour of Central Asia last October.

A presidential spokesman said Mr Yeltsin's work schedule for January was being worked out and a trip to France was being considered.

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