-Caveat Lector-

     [Reuters]
     "Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin returned to Moscow after talks with
the Chinese leadership in Beijing on dealing with NATO actions in the
Yugoslav crisis.
     "MOSCOW AND BEIJING ARE UNITED in their demands," he said.


World Reacts to Russian Shakeup

LONDON (AP) -- U.S. and European leaders said they expect Russia to continue
its efforts to end the Kosovo crisis, despite President Boris Yeltsin's
firing of his prime minister and other key officials Wednesday.

Markets dipped in response to the news that Yeltsin had fired Yevgeny
Primakov as prime minister. The euro fell more than half a cent, and key
stock indexes slipped 1 percent in Paris, 0.9 percent in Frankfurt and 0.5
percent in London at midmorning. But analysts said they expected the slips to
be short-lived.

Last week, Russia and the seven major industrialized powers recommended a
Security Council resolution on the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo
and the deployment of an international security force, but made no mention of
NATO halting its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said he was confident the Russian
government would not abandon its role in trying to bring an end to the
conflict.

``The important thing is for us to continue the work we have already started
on a resolution to be adopted by the Security Council that would outline
conditions for a solution to the Kosovo'' crisis, Vedrine said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart declined to comment on
Primakov's dismissal, saying it was a ``matter of internal Russian
politics.'' But he said President Clinton expected Russia to continue its
diplomatic role in the Kosovo crisis.

He also said he did not expect the firing to affect Russia's efforts to pull
out of its economic crisis.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said it expected Russian
diplomatic efforts in Yugoslavia to continue.

``We have been clear throughout that the Russians have been acting in good
faith and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so,'' said Blair's
spokesman, Alastair Campbell.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's office said he planned to go ahead
with a visit to Russia next week, including a meeting with Yeltsin.

``The trip to Russia has not been changed,'' government spokesman Josep Pique
told reporters.

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, took the
news calmly, saying in a statement released in Brussels, Belgium, that it
hopes ``the constructive role Russia is playing in relation to the search for
a solution to the Kosovo conflict will be sustained.''

Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok said he had ``full confidence in the wish of
President Yeltsin to continue the existing cooperation between the Russian
Federation and the European Union.''


Yugoslav Peace Talks Resume

By ANGELA CHARLTON
.c The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian and Western envoys pushed ahead with mediation efforts
for Kosovo today, under new pressure for a breakthrough after Boris Yeltsin
threatened to pull Russia out of negotiations.

Yeltsin welcomed French President Jacques Chirac today for talks on the
conflict in Yugoslavia.

``In Kosovo, we are standing in the face of the most serious challenge to
Europe in recent times,'' Yeltsin said at the start of the meeting. ``I
consider your initiative (to visit Moscow) very timely and important.''

Yeltsin did not refer to his warning Wednesday that Russia might halt its
mediation efforts, an unexpected blow to the peace process just when the West
was hoping a solution was near.

``Some people obviously aren't understanding our repeated proposals'' for
solving the crisis around the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Yeltsin said.

The threat was clearly tied to Yeltsin's fight with his hard-line foes in
parliament, who began impeachment proceedings today. They accuse him of
bowing to NATO by mediating in the crisis instead of arming Yugoslavia.

Still, the consequences of such a diplomatic withdrawal would resonate far
beyond Russia's borders, frustrating peace efforts and further eroding the
West's relations with Russia and its erratic president.

Russia has opposed NATO's airstrikes on Yugoslavia but has sought to broker a
political solution. Those efforts continued today.

Chirac's visit focused on the Kosovo crisis, and he was to meet later with
Russia's special envoy on Yugoslavia, former Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin.

Chernomyrdin, meanwhile, was to discuss the Kosovo conflict with U.S. Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and fly to Finland later today to meet
Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. Ahtisaari has been suggested as a U.N.
mediator on Yugoslavia.

The United States and NATO have welcomed Russia's diplomatic efforts, hoping
Moscow can use its ties to Yugoslavia to make any peace deal more palatable
to Belgrade. Western officials hailed Russia's decision to move closer to
NATO's position by signing on to a proposed peace plan worked out in Germany
last week.

Yeltsin's hard-line enemies deem Russia's mediation work too conciliatory.

``Yeltsin is clearly trying to earn points with the military'' with his
hawkish comments about withdrawing from talks, said Alexander Pikayev,
defense analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

One of the impeachment counts charges that Yeltsin destroyed the once-mighty
Soviet military.

Chernomyrdin and Talbott met Wednesday, appearing undeterred by Yeltsin's
warning. ``We have moved closer to a solution,'' Chernomyrdin said after the
meeting.

Talbott sounded similarly upbeat, praising Chernomyrdin's diplomatic efforts.
But Talbott said NATO's strategy on Kosovo had not changed.



Lawmakers Concerned About Russia

By TOM RAUM
.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of Congress involved in foreign policy expressed
serious concerns Wednesday over the impact of the latest political turmoil in
Moscow on the Kosovo peace process, and on longer term U.S-Russian relations.

``It is obvious that all is not well in the U.S.-Russian relationship -- or
American foreign policy towards Russia,'' said Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman,
R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, after
Wednesday's report that Yeltsin had dismissed yet another prime minister.

Yeltsin, facing an impeachment vote in Russia's parliament next week,
abruptly dismissed Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and named a close ally,
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, as acting prime minister.

At the State Department, spokesman James Rubin said there remain ``wide
gaps'' between Washington and Moscow on the Kosovo peace process -- including
on the key issues of withdrawal of Serb forces and the composition and scope
of an international peacekeeping force. Russians also continue to insist on a
bombing halt before peace negotiations.

``We did not achieve a breakthrough, nor did we expect a breakthrough, nor do
we expect a breakthrough anytime soon,'' he said of discussions in Moscow
between Russian officials and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.

As to the implications of Yeltsin's dismissal of Primakov, Rubin said,
``We're just not prepared to speculate on what might happen in the future.
There's plenty of people in Moscow who are doing that.''

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said the meeting between Russia's
envoy to Yugoslavia, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Talbott had been productive. He
said two working groups were decided upon to assess the military and civilian
aspects of the post-conflict environment as well as sketch a timetable for an
eventual withdrawal of troops from Kosovo.

At a House hearing, senior State Department adviser Steven R. Sestanovich
said the administration assumes Yeltsin remains in control. He also said he
did not anticipate the upheaval would affect the status of Chernomyrdin.

Sestanovich said it was still ``rather hard to tell'' what the fallout from
the change in prime ministers will. If Yeltsin's choice is approved, that
could strengthen Yeltsin's mandate, Sestanovich suggested.

However, Stepashin's appointment as Primakov's permanent replacement appeared
to have little chance of approval in the Duma, the lower house of parliament.

Sestanovich conceded the Kosovo crisis had put ``new strains on
Russian-American cooperation.'' But he said rising anti-Americanism was
``less about us and more about'' the Russians. ``There is a deep identity
crisis to be resolved in post-Soviet Russia.''

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