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RUSSIA VETOES U.N. PLAN TO HALT SERB SUPPLIES

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Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution late Friday aimed at stopping Yugoslavia from sending fuel supplies that reportedly are powering a Serb offensive in northern Bosnia.

It was the first council veto in a year and a half, and the first on the Bosnian war.The resolution was sponsored by Islamic and non-aligned states to show sympathy for the Muslim-led Bosnian government.

Russia, a traditional Serb ally, said it vetoed the resolution because it would tighten sanctions against Serbia.

"We had no other choice than to vote against this draft," said Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov said that Serb-dominated Yugoslavia had stopped supplying the rebel Serbs in Bosnia and was cooperating with peace negotiators.

Another Russian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the veto didn't mean there was a split within the five-nation contact group pushing for a peace agreement in Bosnia.

Hours before the veto, diplomats from Russia, the United States, France, Britain and Germany demonstrated their unity by endorsing a confederation of Bosnia's Serbs with neighboring Serbia.

The last Security Council veto was in May 1993, when Russia killed a proposal to make all U.N. members pay for the small peacekeeping force in Cyprus.

Lavrov has repeatedly accused the United Nations of using a double standard, saying that the council imposed sanctions against Serbia for arming Bosnia's Serbs but ignored Muslim acts of aggression against Serbs.

Between 100 and 150 fuel tankers were leaving Yugoslavia for Serb forces in Croatia, said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Croatian and Bosnian diplomats say the fuel is far in excess of humanitarian needs and is being used to support the Serbs' offensive in the Muslim enclave of Bihac in northwest Bosnia.

The resolution would have required U.N. border monitors to severely limit shipments of fuel and other supplies from Serbia, the dominant member of Yugoslavia, to Croatia.