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Russia: Government Postpones Budget Debate Twice

Moscow, 30 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - The Russian government postponed twice today a key cabinet debate on the draft 1999 budget. The cabinet was originally scheduled to meet today. Early today, that meeting was rescheduled for this Thursday, but then the meeting was pushed back until next week on December 10. Itar-Tass quoted the Russian government press service as saying the debate had been set back to allow the cabinet more time to "present a well worked-out document to parliament."

The government approved significant changes to the tax system last Friday, which made changes necessary in the budget. The budget is a key element in Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's bid to pull Russia out of its economic crisis.

Primakov is due to meet Camdessus during the IMF official's two-day stay in Moscow starting tomorrow. Their discussions will focus on the 1999 budget and the government's economic plans.

Meanwhile today, ailing President Boris Yeltsin appeared on television for the first time in a week. ORT television broadcast images of Yeltsin meeting his administration chief Valentin Yumashev at the hospital where Yeltsin is recovering from what the Kremlin says is pneumonia.

The brief video clip showed a casually dressed Yeltsin seated in a chair. The video was not accompanied by sound. The Kremlin today announced that Yeltsin scheduled a series of working meetings at the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital against his doctors' advice. Presidential aides have no information about when Yeltsin might be strong enough to leave the hospital or return to the Kremlin.

Yeltsin's repeated illnesses and his infrequent appearances in the Kremlin have raised concerns about his ability to perform his duties through the end of his term in mid-2000. His current stay in the hospital began November 22. He has already met there with several official visitors, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin a week ago.