'We can put out the fire in the former Yugoslavia step by step and all members of the world community agree with this,' said Mr Kozyrev after meeting the international mediators Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg in Moscow. 'We don't have to wait until the last Bosnian militant endorses the Vance-Owen plan,' he said, referring to the UN plan which Lord Owen drew up with Cyrus Vance.
The liberal Mr Kozyrev, who has enraged Russian hardliners by co-operating with the West over Yugoslavia, said the UN should decide this week exactly how to implement the plan. He added that Russia, which already has a small peace-keeping force in the former federation, was prepared to contribute border monitors. 'Russia is being very supportive and now wants to see it (the plan) carried out,' said Lord Owen. 'We need now to have some high-quality troops . . . Even a contribution of 2,000 from the Russian Federation quickly would be very helpful.'
Russians, because they share a common Orthodox faith, have traditionally been allies of the Serbs, but Mr Kozyrev believes that Moscow should now take an even-handed approach to the various groups in the Yugoslav war and help the world community to stop it. Hardliners here have exploited the Yugoslav conflict in their power struggle with President Boris Yeltsin, accusing him and his ministers of betraying old friends and kowtowing to the West.
The parliamentary chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov took up the theme again this weekend when he wrote in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper that Mr Yeltsin, by his 'dictatorial ambitions', was pushing Russia to the brink of civil war and foreign domination. 'The time has come when not only deputies and ministers . . . but all citizens should recognise the danger facing the country of death, war and subjugation to foreign powers,' Mr Khasbulatov wrote.
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