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Russia: Clinton To Urge Yeltsin To Stick With Reforms

Washington, 31 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Officials say U.S. President Bill Clinton will urge Russian President Boris Yeltsin to stay the course of economic reforms if he hopes to overcome Russia's financial problems.

Clinton is scheduled to leave the White House today aboard Air Force One for a two-day summit in Moscow. His meeting with the beleaguered Russian president and other political leaders comes in the wake of Russia's latest turmoil.

In a surprise move Sunday, the Russian Communist Party said it will not support plans to grant Viktor Chernomyrdin swift parliamentary approval as prime minister.

Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told Russian television (NTV) that his faction will vote against Chernomyrdin, calling him an accomplice of Yeltsin in mismanaging Russia's economic life.

The communists are the biggest single party in the Duma, the lower house of Parliament. Zyuganov's comments come just hours after Chernomyrdin and parliamentary leaders agreed on a consensus plan that would have given the Duma some of powers now held by Yeltsin in return for confirming Chernomyrdin.

Ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky also said his faction will not back Chernomyrdin.

Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the Russian crisis by telephone last night. A spokesman for Blair said the two leaders agreed that the West will continue to help Russia if it presses on with economic reforms.

In Washington, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said in a television interview (CBS) that what is crucial now "is not words at this point but actions the Russians are able to take at a critical juncture for them and their management of the economy."

Summers said the Russians must let "market forces based on the rule of law operate." He said: "They have to get that banking system into some kind of shape, and it can't just be by printing money."

The U.S. official said corruption has been a serious problems for Russia, along with the lack of the rule of law.

He said there is "really no alternative to a market system based on the rule of law. They can't get there by going back to communism."

Summers defended Clinton's decision to go ahead with the summit.

He said: "This is a long-scheduled trip." The official added: "It is the right time to reaffirm the close connection between the American people and the Russian people. And it is the right time for the president to speak candidly with Boris Yeltsin and other Russian leaders about the kinds of things that are necessary to give Russia its best economic prospect of tapping into the enormous natural resources and technological skill of its people."

In a separate television interview (NBC), U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson also said the United States is prepared to help Russia, as long as it presses on with economic reforms.

Richardson, who is also the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said: "The U.S. is ready to help. We're prepared to do more." He did not offer any specifics.

Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), who will be going to Moscow with Clinton, said on CNN that he believes "some good will" is likely to come out of the summit.

Domenici said he does not think Russia should get additional funds from international lending institutions until it puts its financial house in order.

He said: "What happens to the economy, their banking system and all of those things depends upon the Russian people and what they can do. They're long suffering and I think if they are given hope, they'll make it through this one, too."