Russian PM opposes force against Serbs

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RUSSIA will oppose any military action against Serbia and Serb forces in Bosnia, the Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, told journalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday. He said that the war must be stopped 'by political means, at a political level'.

Mr Chernomyrdin said that the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, would meet President Bill Clinton 'very soon' to discuss the situation in former Yugoslavia.

Leaders of Bosnia's warring Muslims and Serbs have turned down an international peace plan to divide the republic into 10 autonomous provinces. The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, will meet the authors of the plan, Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, in New York today.

Mr Vance and Lord Owen are to ask the UN to impose a solution and the Clinton administration is reportedly considering options for military intervention.

Croatia's President, Franjo Tudjman, warned yesterday that he was ready to use force to reconquer every inch of his country's territory, deepening fears of a devastating new round of warfare with the Serbs.

Mr Tudjman also warned that Croatia would not accept a renewal of the UN peace-keeping mandate in Krajina unless the international force returns Croatian refugees to their homes, disarms Serb militias and opens roads and railways.

There was a lull in fighting yesterday in Croatia, but there was continuing concern that the hydrolectric dam at Peruca could collapse and wash away the homes of up to 20,000 villagers living downstream.

British engineers, led by an Oxford University professor, Paul Back, confirmed that deep-level charges had been exploded in the dam. They said the immediate threat of collapse had been averted by swift action to empty the reservoir, but it would take two weeks to drain the lake to a safe level.

Last night Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic, said he would stay away from the UN talks in New York - appearing to negate statements by Lord Owen that he was confident a deal was very close.

Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, has died, aged 71. The queen, consort of the late King Peter II, who was forced into exile in 1942, died on Saturday at her Sussex home. From statesman to warlord, page 8

Letters, page 18

What an unlovely war, page 19