Yeltsin to be treated in hospital for possible pneumonia


PRESIDENT Yeltsin has been admitted to the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow after showing signs of pneumonia, his press secretary, Mr Sergei Ynstrzhembsky, said late last night on Radio Echo Moscow.

Mr Yeltsin's press service said that the president's illness is in its first stages and that he is likely to remain in the hospital for a few days.

The announcement, which cited "first elements of tests by doctors," came after a Kremlin spokesman said that Mr Yeltsin was shaking off a heavy cold at his suburban Moscow home.

The press service noted that Mr Yeltsin was found to have the initial signs of pneumonia - an inflammation of the lungs that can in extreme cases be fatal.

Mr Yeltsin (65), who retreated from the Kremlin on Monday, had returned to work on December 23rd following heart bypass surgery on November 5th.

In Washington, the White House voiced concern and sent Mr Yeltsin "best wishes for a speedy recovery".

President Clinton's spokesman, Mr Michael McCurry, said the White House had not received confirmation from Russian authorities of the decision to admit Mr Yeltsin to hospital.

"We inquire from time to time about his health and wish him well for a speedy recovery, particularly in the aftermath of his recent surgery," Mr McCurry said.

Mr Clinton and Mr Yeltsin are expected to meet in March, though the date and location of the meeting have yet to be set.

. The Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Yevgeny Primakov, urged NATO yesterday to step up efforts to work out a special relationship with Moscow and set out Russian demands for the right to joint decision making on some issues. Mr Primakov told Itar Tass news agency that Russia remained firmly opposed to the western alliance's plans to expand eastwards. However, indicating there was still some room for manoeuvre: he made clear that some Russian fears would be eased if a new deal was reached governing conventional arms.