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Russia Won't Block Vote Called by Serb

Diplomacy: Surprise agreement paves way for monitored parliamentary election aimed at undercutting Bosnian war crimes suspect Karadzic.


UNITED NATIONS — In a surprisingly quick victory for U.S. policy, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov assured President Clinton on Monday that Moscow will not try to block parliamentary elections that have been called to undercut indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic in the Bosnian Serb entity.

White House national security advisor Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger said the decision removes the final obstacle to international supervision of next month's balloting, which was ordered by U.S.-backed Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic to replace a regional parliament dominated by Karadzic allies.

Although the United States and Russia do not see eye to eye on every aspect of policy toward Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Russian decision on the election removes a major cause of friction.

In a bitter political power struggle with Karadzic and his supporters, Plavsic dissolved the Bosnian Serb parliament and scheduled next month's election to pick a new one.

The decision won strong U.S. support, but Russia opposed the step and threatened to block electoral supervision by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, considered vital to give the balloting international legitimacy.

A senior administration official said--before the Clinton-Primakov meeting--that Washington was conducting a multi-front campaign to pressure Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin's government to abandon Karadzic and throw its support to Plavsic.

The official, who asked not to be named, said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made the argument during a dinner with Primakov on Sunday night. Clinton took up the theme Monday at the United Nations, where he and the two diplomats attended the opening of the new General Assembly session.


In Moscow, Vice President Al Gore, attending a regularly scheduled meeting with Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, underlined the point in talks with Russian officials.

The administration official said the U.S. message was stark: It's time for all countries to support the Bosnian Serbs who are willing to live up to the peace accords agreed to in Dayton, Ohio, and stop dealing with the Bosnian Serbs who are trying to undermine the agreement.

After the Clinton-Primakov meeting, Berger said the Russians now appear ready "to make a distinction" between Plavsic and her supporters, who are willing to go along with the Dayton accords, and Karadzic and his allies who are not.

"We've drawn much closer to each other in terms of our views," Berger said.

Talking to reporters with Clinton at his side before their meeting began, Primakov said: "Last night we had a very exciting, very productive talk with the secretary of State. And already, based on that talk, I got a signal coming from Moscow."

He did not elaborate further in his public remarks. But he said Yeltsin has a "very big interest in having our relations with the United States develop further on many tracks."

On another subject of continuing friction between the two countries, Clinton told Primakov that the United States objects strongly to legislation, passed last week by the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, placing tough restrictions on all religious organizations that were not active in the Soviet Union at least 15 years ago, Berger said.

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