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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 21:37 GMT


World: Europe

Russian Duma condemns Nato

Protesters in Moscow demonstrate outside the US embassy

The Russian parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution condemning the Nato air strikes against Serbia.

Kosovo: Special Report
The resolution was adopted by a 366-4 vote at an emergency session of the Duma devoted solely to the crisis in Yugoslavia.

And the State Duma has recommended that Russian President Boris Yeltsin recall a draft law on ratifying the Start-2 treaty on nuclear arms reduction, as a response to the Nato action.

The Russian leadership's anger about the bombing, and support for the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been gathering pace since the strikes began.


Moscow Correspondent James Rodgers: "Russian Government in a difficult position"
According to the speaker of the Duma, Gennady Seleznev, the Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov is "in constant contact" with President Milosevic.

Mr Seleznev said a meeting between President Boris Yeltsin and Milosevic was possible, adding: "I do not rule it out, anything is possible".


[ image:  ]
On Saturday, the Kremlin revealed that President Yeltsin had sent the President Milosevic a letter voicing Russia's support for the Yugoslav people and condeming Nato's air strikes.

And in a speech to the Duma, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the issue should be brought before the UN General Assembly.

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.

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."

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.

Logistical support

Meanwhile, in Macedonia, emergency preparations are under way to house scores of refugees fleeing the bombing in Serbia.


Robin Denselow reports from Macedonia
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the Macedonian president Kiro Gligorov expressed his concerns about the Nato campaign.

"Macedonia is Nato-orientated and we have given complete logistical support to the alliance, but we would like to see a peaceful solution to the conflict," he said.

According to Mr Gligorov, the fighting is likely to have a destabilising effect on the Serbian and Albanian communities in Macedonia.



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