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Russia: Clinton Concerned About Religion Law

New York, 23 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday expressed concern about Russian legislation that the U.S. believes will reduce freedom of religion for minorities.

U.S. National Security adviser Sandy Berger says Clinton raised the issue in talks yesterday with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov in New York.

The Russian State Duma approved the bill last week after it had been revised by a conciliatory commission. Russian President Boris Yeltsin vetoed an earlier version in July. To take effect, it must still pass Russia's Federation Council and be signed by Yeltsin.

Berger told reporters that Primakov assured Clinton the new version of the legislation was better than the previous one. He also quoted Primakov as saying that Russian authorities would enforce the law in a way that would not affect minority groups as the U.S. fears.

Berger said Clinton and Primakov also had a lengthy discussion about the situation in Bosnia, especially developments in Republika Srpska and the conflict between its president, Biljana Plavsic, and Pale-based supporters of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Primakov told Clinton that Russia will not oppose parliamentary elections to be held in Republika Srpska next month. Berger called that an important development.

He said the two sides also had a positive and hopeful discussion on arms control issues.