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    MOSCOW, APRIL 1, 2004, RIA NOVOSTI - The Federation Council may turn down the bill prohibiting rallies outside the headquarters of embassies and government agencies, Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the upper parliamentary chamber's foreign affairs committee, warned Thursday. The lower parliamentary house, the State Duma, passed the bill in its first reading yesterday.

    Margelov criticized the bill for infringing on the Russian people's right to express their attitude to actions by foreign states. This right was respected even in the Soviet era, he recalled. Thus, for instance, rallies were staged outside the British and the French Embassies to protest the Sinai Peninsula War and outside the U.S. Embassy to protest the war in Vietnam.

    In post-Soviet years, protesters repeatedly gathered near the Embassies of Latvia and Estonia to defend the rights of fellow Russians living in those two former Soviet republics; mass demonstrations were also held outside the U.S. Embassy to protest the American invasion of Iraq and the Balkans, Margelov said.

    Other bans imposed by the bill also need to be finalized in line with the long way Russia has come in its democratic development since the perestroika era, he added.

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