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Latvia: President Asks Shkele To Form New Government

By Peter Zvagulis

Riga, 29 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis today asked Andris Shkele, who resigned as prime minister just last week, to form a new government.

Our correspondent in Riga reports that Ulmanis has signed a document extending the new mandate in which he says Shkele can best continue the reforms he has begun. It also calls Shkele's previous leadership "successful".

The step was taken after Shkele and Ulmanis met for more than an hour.

Shkele resigned last week after Ulmanis called on parliament to reject a new finance minister he was backing. They later resolved their differences and Shkele said today that in additon to leading the government, he would like to serve as the country's finance minister.

Shkele, who has pledged to speed the reforms launched after Latvia quit the former Soviet Union in 1991, said today that the formation of a new government would be tough. His last government was an eight-party coalition which came to power at the end of 1995.

Shkele said the Unity Party, which holds six seats in the 100-seat parliament, might not participate in the next government. And the BNS news agency had earlier reported that the Homeland and Freedom Party, which has 14 seats, was supporting Economics Minister Guntars Krasts.