Yeltsin Eases Up on Threat to Fire Foreign Minister

From Associated Press

Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin on Friday backed off hints that he might fire Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev, bringing him along on a state visit to France and saying his job may be safe--with the right underling in place.

Kozyrev met with his French counterpart, Herve de Charette, to discuss Russia's role in the Bosnian peace process and the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Kozyrev found out that he would accompany Yeltsin to Paris shortly before the president's departure.

At the airport in Moscow on Friday morning, with Kozyrev at his side, Yeltsin said Kozyrev could keep his job if a good deputy foreign minister could be found.

"When I talk about personnel changes, it does not necessarily mean the minister," Yeltsin said. "If you find a good deputy minister, that would be OK, and the problem could be resolved."

The president's comments came a day after he strongly implied that he had decided to fire Kozyrev, saying he was "dissatisfied" with the minister's performance and was looking for a replacement.

The issue underscores tensions over Russian policy regarding the West and NATO and the weakened superpower's insecurity about its role in a post-Cold War world.

Later in the day, Yeltsin and French President Jacques Chirac held closed-door talks outside Paris. Bosnia and European security were on the agenda.

The two announced that they will push for a Moscow meeting between the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian presidents and mediators in Bosnian peace negotiations before the end of the month.

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