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Russia: Face-Off Between President Yeltsin and Duma Continues

Moscow, 22 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin will hold talks with the speakers of both houses of parliament tomorrow morning, a day before the third and final confirmation vote on his embattled Prime Minister-designate Sergei Kiriyenko. Kiriyenko has already been twice rejected by the Duma. If the Duma rejects his candidacy a third time this Friday, Yeltsin has said he will act according to the Russian Constitution and dissolve the chamber.

Word of today's meeting was announced this morning by State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov and confirmed by Yeltsin's office. Seleznyov said he will ask Yeltsin to attend Friday's vote and personally introduce Kiriyenko to the Duma.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who leads the largest Duma faction, reiterated today that he will vote against Kiriyenko, considered by many lawmakers as too inexperienced for the post.

In addition to this, Yeltsin took another blow from the Duma today as Russia's lower house of parliament once again approved a national land code which does not allow the free sale and private ownership of land.

The Duma passed the code with 263 votes in favor, three against and three abstentions, despite Yeltsin's voiced objections. The bill, like an earlier version passed by the Duma, does not permit the sale of land and restricts the right of inheritance.

Yeltsin vetoed the original version, urging deputies to rework the legislation to allow the private ownership of farmland.

Meanwhile, Russian officials downplayed western media reports suggesting that acting Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev snubbed NATO's top general today by skipping a meeting at the Defense Ministry in Moscow.

The chief of Russia's General Staff, Anatoly Kvashnin, said the meeting with NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, U.S. General Wesley Clark, was cancelled because Sergeyev had a "packed agenda."