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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 15:39 GMT

World: Europe

Yeltsin letter supports Milosevic

Protesters in Moscow demonstrate outside the US embassy

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has sent the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, a letter, voicing Russia's support for the Yugoslav people and condeming Nato's air strikes, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

Kosovo: Special Report
According to the Kremlin, Mr Yeltsin had also written about "concrete questions touching on the Kosovo situation", but no details were made available.

In another example of Russian anger at the air strikes, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov strongly condemned Nato's military action against Yugoslavia, and says the issue should be brought before the UN General Assembly.

At a special meeting of the lower house of parliament, Mr Ivanov said that if Nato does not stop the aggression, Russia will demand an emergency session of the assembly to give all members of the world community the opportunity to vote.

Moscow Correspondent James Rodgers: "Russian Government in a difficult position"
His comments came a day after the 15-member UN Security Council defeated a Russian-backed resolution calling for an immediate end to the bombing.

Mr Ivanov described the bombing of Serbia as "one of the blackest dates in Europe's post-war history".

"Under all canons of international law, this is an aggression. This is a blow to efforts aimed at creating the international security system," he said.

According to Mr Ivanov, Nato is using the Serbian situation "to expand its presence in the Balkans", and the United States considers the Balkans a "training ground for practicing the American edition of the new concept of Nato".

Mr Ivanov denied that Belgrade had refused, and continues to refuse, to negotiate.

Russia's Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, and the Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev were also attending the Duma session, devoted solely to the crisis.

On Friday, the Russian government asked the Nato representative in Moscow to leave the country.

Mr Ivanov told journalists at the Kremlin: "We no longer have, and shall have no more contacts with the Nato leadership, including its secretary general, until the aggression against Yugoslavia stops."

UN bid fails

Members of the United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly defeated Russia's bid to end the Nato air strikes on Kosovo at a meeting on Friday.

Russia had tabled a resolution calling for "an immediate cessation of the use of force against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and urgent resumption of negotiations".

The resolution collected only three votes in the 15 member Security Council, far short of the nine needed to pass. China and Namibia voted with Russia.

There was little surprise about the outcome. Even if Russia had succeeded in winning the nine votes needed for approval, it could have been vetoed by the US, UK France - permanent members of the council who are also Nato members taking part in the strikes.

Signs of discontent

President Yeltsin's call for a return to the search for a peaceful settlement has received support from Nato members Greece and Italy.

Helena Smith reports from Athens: "Greeks feel very strongly that it should be stopped"
On Friday, Greece called for the Western alliance to stop bombing Yugoslavia and return to the negotiating table.

"It is time to go back to political dialogue to seek a political solution to the problem and to stop the bombing," said a spokesman for the Greek government, Yannis Nikolaou.

He said Greece had informed both the leadership in Belgrade and members of the international community of its position.

David Willey reports from Rome: "Italy is seeking every avenue possible for peace negotiations"
According to an Italian poll published in Saturday's Corriere della Sera newspaper, half of Italians oppose the strikes.

But Italy's Defence Minister Carlo Scognamiglio said the government would continue to back Nato action against Yugoslavia despite disquiet among many Italians.

"Representing the people sometimes involves taking decisions which are not popular or are not fully backed," he said at a conference.

On Thursday, the Italian Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema told reporters at a European Union summit meeting: "The scenario is opening up for initiatives to return to the political track."

But in parliament on Friday, Mr D'Alema acknowledged qualified support for Nato's air strikes.

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