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CAN GLORIOUS SCENERY INSPIRE DIPLOMACY?

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In the sunny splendor of the Hudson Valley, President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin set out Monday to revive the "spirit of cooperation" that carried their nations to victory in World War II. But differences over Bosnia and NATO expansion limited expectations of success.

Meeting at the home of wartime President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the two leaders gazed toward the Catskill Mountains while Yeltsin, marveling at the scenery, offered his assurance: "We are planning here peace, not war.""Can we do it?" Yeltsin said in Russian. But there was no reply from Clinton, who entertained his guest with a brief history of how the young FDR went sledding down into the valley.

"It is a beautiful place," Yeltsin said. "I am sure in a place like this there will be nothing we can't resolve."

Clinton greeted Yeltsin as the Russian leader stepped from a helicopter onto a football-field-size lawn circled by majestic red maples. They shook hands and hugged. And together, Yeltsin walking stiffly, they chatted their way to the Roosevelt home for their talks.

"I don't know how at this landscape there could be plans of war," the Russian leader said as he sat alongside Clinton on wooden-twig chairs set at an angle to catch the best view of the valley below. "Do you come here often?" Yeltsin asked politely.

"No," Clinton replied.

"It is a beautiful place," Yeltsin said. "It was a good idea to have our meeting here."

Asked if they could solve their differences over Bosnia, the Russian leader said he would discuss the divisive issue with Clinton and that "very difficult problems" were involved.

Trying to take the edge off the disagreement, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said they were concentrating on achieving a peace accord in the former Yugoslav republic. "First things first," he said.

It was their ninth in a series of meetings that began in April 1993 in Vancouver, Canada.

The selection of Hyde Park contributed a symbolic touch, and the chairs Clinton and Yeltsin sat in to overlook the landscape had been used during World War II by Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Clinton also entered Monday's meeting predisposed to a compromise on provisions of a 1990 treaty calling for reductions in NATO and former Warsaw Pact tanks, artillery, aircraft, helicopters and armored vehicles by mid-November.

The idea is to ease limits on Russia's northern and southern borders so it can deal more easily with secessionist movements. Also, national security adviser Anthony Lake suggested Sunday that the Russians may play a civilian role alongside U.S. and other ground troops under NATO command.

Yeltsin, in his speech Sunday to the United Nations, said Russia was ready to provide troops, and White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the administration still wanted Russian participation.

But Yeltsin complained the U.N. Security Council had been bypassed in the U.S.-led initiative to end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On other fronts there are tensions, as well. Administration officials acknowledge making little headway in trying to dissuade Russian from providing technology to Iran that they fear could be used in a nuclear weapons program. He also blamed Western-style capitalism for corruption in Russia.

On Tuesday, Clinton meets in New York with President Jiang Zemin of China, hoping to stabilize a relationship troubled by differences over Taiwan, U.S. refusal to provide financing to American companies that want to build China's Three Gorges Dam and China's treatment of political dissidents.

China objected to holding Tuesday's session at the New York Public Library, where an exhibit, "What Price Freedom," focuses on human rights was featured. The meeting was shifted to Lincoln Center.