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Monday, February 8, 1999 Published at 17:45 GMT


World: Europe

Sick Yeltsin leaves funeral

President Yeltsin spent only three hours in Amman

The Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, has flown back to Moscow only hours after arriving in Amman for King Hussein's funeral.

Russia crisis
Jordanian officials said that he had needed medical treatment in Amman. However, this was later denied by President Yeltsin's press service, which said the reports "absolutely do not correspond to reality".

The Russian president is recovering from a bleeding ulcer and went to Amman against his doctor's advice.


Andrew Harding reports: Mr Yeltsin's doctors had told him not to travel abroad
He joined other heads of state and government leaders to pay his respects to King Hussein at the palace but appeared unsteady and was unable to file past the late king's coffin.

The president was accompanied to the funeral by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and a small group of staff from his administration, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.


[ image: Russian newspapers have been full of speculation about the president's health]
Russian newspapers have been full of speculation about the president's health
Shortly after 1700 GMT on Monday, the Itar-Tass news agency reported that he had arrived back in Moscow.

Before the start of the funeral, Mr Yeltsin praised King Hussein's "unique role", saying he had been a "wise and perceptive statesman" who had "laid the foundations to enable Jordan to look forward to the next millennium".

Meetings

The president found time for brief meetings with US President Bill Clinton and French President Jacques Chirac.

Interfax said the Russian president's conversation with Mr Clinton focused on planned talks between Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and US Vice President Al Gore in March.

Mr Yeltsin had discussed with Mr Chirac the diplomatic efforts in France to bring peace to the troubled Serbian province of Kosovo, according to a Kremlin spokeswoman.

The trip to Amman marked an unexpected return to the world stage for Boris Yeltsin, after ill-health in recent months.

The BBC correspondent in Moscow, Andrew Harding, says the 68-year-old leader's decision to attend the funeral appears to have been a typically impulsive one. A Kremlin spokesman said the visit had only been organized at the very last minute.

Recurring ill health

Mr Yeltsin's last foreign visit was to central Asia in October 1998. That was cut short when he developed a cold.

Kremlin doctors imposed a three-month travel ban on the Russian leader after he was hospitalised in January with a large bleeding stomach ulcer. Before that Mr Yeltsin was suffering from nervous exhaustion and a respiratory infection.

The Russian president has been dogged by ill health for several years after undergoing a quintuple heart bypass in 1996.

Mr Yeltsin has vowed to stay in office until his term expires next year, but the BBC's correspondent says it is Prime Minister Primakov who appears to be in charge.



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