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Russia: U.S. State Department, Senate Disagree On Religion Bill

Washington, 21 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department said Friday it is not in America's national interest to cut off assistance to Russia even if President Boris Yeltsin were to sign a restrictive religious bill into law.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Clinton Administration agrees in principle with the reasons behind a U.S. Senate vote this week critical of the Russian legislation and said the U.S. does not want Yeltsin to sign the bill. But, Burns said, Clinton also does not want to jeopardize a "multiplicity of American interests in Russia" because of one bill.

He said the administration will convey its concerns to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives who must now review and vote on the bill before it can be sent on to the president.

The Russian legislation, passed by both houses of its national legislature, requires new religious organizations to wait 15 years after registering before being officially established.

The U.S. Senate last week overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the U.S. Foreign Appropriations bill that would cut off some $200 million in aid to Russia if Yeltsin approves the measure.

Earlier Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying any attempts to impose conditions on aid would be "counter-productive."