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Domestic Opposition Leads Russia to Take Assertive UN Stance

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DOMESTIC political concerns are diminishing Russia's ability to continue close cooperation with the West in United Nations actions against Yugoslavia and Iraq.

Russia up to now has generally followed the United States lead in the implementation of UN sanctions aimed at curbing Serbian and Iraqi aggression. But now, with its leaders under growing pressure from nationalist hard-liners at home, Russia is becoming less willing to support unconditionally further UN moves against Belgrade and Baghdad.

"Russia's leaders have to take into account the mounting opposition in [Russian] society at large, and the Supreme Soviet [parliament] in particular, to a progressive foreign policy," says Andrei Kortunov, a researcher at Moscow's USA-Canada Institute.

President Boris Yeltsin, who departed yesterday on a three-day visit to India, served notice that Russia wanted greater input in the formulation of UN policy toward Serbia and Iraq.

"We felt with Yugoslavia, we felt with Iraq, that yes, definitely, there was a tendency on the part of the United States to dictate conditions," Mr. Yeltsin said at a Monday news conference. "One country should not dictate to another what to do in one region of the world or another."

Indeed, Moscow of late has become increasingly assertive regarding the UN actions. For example, the Foreign Ministry yesterday dispatched Deputy Minister Vitaly Churkin to the Croatian capital Zagreb for discussions on Croatia's recent military offensive against Serbs in the Krajina region of the republic.

Russia, which has traditionally close ties to Serbia, has condemned the Croatian offensive, warning that it hinders advancement toward overall Yugoslav settlement at peace talks in Geneva. Mr. Churkin and others have warned that Russia may press for UN sanctions against Croatia if Zagreb does not alter its belligerent behavior.

"We are worried that at this moment, when progress in the negotiating process is taking shape, Croatia is undertaking, in my view, altogether reckless and essentially adventurist actions," Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said Tuesday.

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