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Council Of Europe: Latvia's Relations With Russia Improving

Strasbourg, 24 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Latvia's relations with Russia are developing on a "stable basis" and good relations "are not far off," said Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis today.

The democratic processes in Russia are now irreversible, as they are in Latvia, he said. "This year or next year" Latvia will satisfy all human rights criteria of the Council of Europe, of which it is a member, he said.

Ulmanis made his remarks at a news conference at council headquarters in Strasbourg. Earlier, he addressed the organization's Parliamentary Assembly, which is holding its autumn session.

In his speech, Ulmanis said that "public opinion in Latvia is still not fully ready to accept the abolition of the death penalty" -- a binding obligation for all council member states.

But he assured the parliamentarians that, pending a law abolishing capital punishment, he would not turn down any requests for a pardon.

"I hereby declare the president's moratorium on the death penalty," in Latvia, he said.