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Yeltsin Opposes Airstrikes On Serbs, Proposes Talks

PRESIDENT Boris Yeltsin's spokesman yesterday blamed NATO airstrikes for worsening the Bosnian conflict, amid signs that Russia is backing away from the tough line it took with the Serbs earlier this week.

Vyacheslav Kostikov, speaking at a Kremlin briefing, also reiterated Russia's objections to further NATO air raids.

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``There is an opinion here that the situation there exploded as a result of NATO's raids, against which Russia had objected,'' said Mr. Kostikov, Yeltsin's press secretary.

The Russian leadership was angered last week when NATO launched airstrikes against Bosnian Serbs without consulting Russia. Russia claimed the raids on the Serbs, who are fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians, had undermined Moscow's peace initiatives in the region.

But when the Serbs attacked the Muslim enclave of Gorazde, just a day after Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said they had promised to halt their offensive, Russia felt betrayed by the Serbs and even warned it might rupture contacts with them.

Tuning down the criticism of the Serbs yesterday, Kostikov denied that any ``sharp re-assessment of values is under way in Russia'' toward the Serbs. ``The president believes that Russia's stand on the Balkans and on Bosnia remains unchanged.''

President Yeltsin is seeking to hold a summit with the United States, the European Union, and Russia on the Bosnia crisis within a month, Kostikov added. Spain takes on corruption

THE Spanish parliament has approved a sweeping range of measures to curb corruption, creating a special prosecutor to investigate official malpractice and setting up a commission to probe party finances.

The Congress (lower house) voted for a committee to investigate the affairs of former Bank of Spain governor Mariano Rubio, object of allegations of tax fraud, which have seriously embarrassed the Socialist government.

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Approval of a total of 104 motions climaxed a two-day state of the nation debate, which ended Wednesday night, in which recent corruption scandals dominated and opposition leaders called for the resignation of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

Mr. Gonzalez refused to step down but pledged the government's commitment to fight official wrongdoing.

The house accepted a Socialist proposal for a parliamentary commission to examine financing of all political parties since 1979 ``to ensure it is sufficently transparent.''

An internal party dispute over how to respond to allegations of improper financing forced Gonzalez to call general elections last June, five months ahead of schedule, which resulted in the Socialists now governing as a minority. Ulster overturns Guildford ruling

A BELFAST appeals court yesterday overturned the 1974 murder conviction of Paul Hill, who also was wrongfully convicted of IRA bombing charges in England.

Mr. Hill argued that mistreatment by police led him to confess to participating in the kidnapping and murder of a former British soldier in Belfast.

British officials had said that Hill, who spent 15 years in prison on the bombing charges before being freed in 1989, did not face any additional jail time if his appeal on the murder charge failed.

Hill made the confession in 1974 when he was held by police in England as a suspect in a series of IRA pub bombings. Hill and three others were convicted of bombing a pub in Guildford, but all won their freedom in 1989 when the Court of Appeal ruled that police had fabricated evidence. That case is the basis for the film, ``In the Name of the Father.''

There was no physical evidence linking Hill to Shaw's murder.

When Hill's appeal was argued in Belfast in February and March, government attorneys characterized him as a ``ruthless and convincing liar'' who gave convincing details of crimes he later claimed he did not commit.

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