Yeltsin pledges military cuts

The US agreed to boost support for Moscow's push to slash and reform its armed forces, hours after President Boris Yeltsin promised big military cuts. His announcement during a visit to Sweden overshadowed the event at Nato headquarters, where the US Defense Secretary, William Cohen, and Marshal Igor Sergeyev signed an agreement to increase exchanges of military officers.

"They are going through a very painful time right now," Mr Cohen said, referring to cuts to the Russian forces under stringent budget measures. "It is important to help in any way we can in a positive, constructive fashion." Mr Yeltsin told the Swedish parliament that Russia would cut its land and naval forces by 40 per cent beginning in 1999, "especially in north-western Russia." The foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, hastened to clarify that the 40-per-cent cut referred only to the north-western region.

- Reuters, Brussels

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