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Russian force to get Bosnia role

The US and Russia have agreed in theory that up to 2,000 Russian support troops would help a Bosnia peace-keeping force in reconstruction efforts, airlifting supplies and clearing mines.

This agreement between Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, who met in New York state last week, emerged yesterday as their defence ministers held talks in Washington to try and fashion a role for the Russians in Bosnia.

The Russian troops would be separate from a Nato-led force. But the US Secretary of Defense, William Perry, and his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, yesterday confronted the far more sensitive issue of using Russian combat troops, with the two sides openly at loggerheads over whether they could come under Nato command.

Defence analysts doubt whether the two men will make much progress on an issue dogged by national pride and domestic politics.

The US insists that any Russian peace-keepers should be integrated into the command structure of the proposed 60,000-strong Nato contingent. But while Russian commanders have shown some eagerness to get involved, President Yeltsin has been adamant that they will not serve under Nato.

Mr Clinton is under pressure at home. Fifty Republican Senators led by Bob Dole wrote to him saying he had not made the case for a US peace-keeping contingent of 20,000, and urging him to seek a formal vote in Congress.