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RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT OKS RELIGION BILL

A hotly debated bill that some religious groups say will curb freedom of religion in Russia won unanimous and final passage from parliament Wednesday and appeared certain to become law.

President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman has indicated he will sign the legislation.

The swift 137-0 approval in the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament, ends a months-long public debate that drew opposition from the Vatican, the U.S. Congress and human-rights groups.

Supporters say the new law will protect Russians from foreign sects and cults that have recently been seeking new members. Critics say it will sharply limit the rights of many religious groups.

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