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Russia: Albright Meets Ivanov, Luzhkov

Moscow, 25 January 1999 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov today at the start of a three-day visit to Russia. Albright and Ivanov are to meet again tomorrow and are expected to enter detailed discussions on Iraq, the crisis in the Serbian province of Kosovo and nuclear proliferation concerns -- all issues over which Moscow and Washington have disagreed sharply in recent months. Ivanov said their talks today were held in a businesslike and constructive atmosphere.

Albright later met Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who said Russian President Boris Yeltsin's frequent illnesses are undermining Yeltsin's ability to run the country. Luzhkov is widely expected to run for president in Russia's next presidential elections. Yeltsin's term ends next year, but there has been frequent speculation that his repeated health problems may force an early election.

It is still not clear whether Albright will meet with Yeltsin, who is currently recovering from a bleeding stomach ulcer in Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital. The Kremlin said today that Yeltsin is in "a stable and satisfactory condition" but gave no further details about his health.

Meanwhile, a senior International Monetary Fund official, Jorge Marquez-Ruarte (Deputy Director for the Second European Department with responsibility for Russia), is due to arrive in Moscow today to join an IMF team which is negotiating with Russian officials on the possible resumption of IMF loans to Russia.

Also in Moscow, Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik said today that the United States will start delivering promised food shipments to Russia by the end of next month. Kulik made the announcement after meeting with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.