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Slovakia: Referendum On NATO, Presidential Elections Set This Week

Bratislava, 21 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Slovak President Michal Kovac says the referendum on the country's entry into NATO and on direct presidential elections will be held as planned this Friday and Saturday.

Slovak Interior Minister Gustav Krajci yesterday called on Kovac to delay the referendum until the Constitutional Court ruled on a legal challenge by a group of lawmakers.

However, Kovac said he had considered Krajci's request but "unambiguously" decided not to comply with the request.

The constitutional court is due to announce its decision later today, but opposition officials tell RFE/RL that the announcement could be postponed until next week.

Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has lobbied hard to prevent direct elections. Correspondents say it would likely result in the election of someone outside of his coalition.

If the referendum fails and the next presidential elections are held in parliament early next year, it is unlikely lawmakers will be able to agree on a a successor to Kovac. Meciar would then assume presidential powers until parliamentary elections later in 1998.