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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Agrees to Talks on Premier

President Boris Yeltsin made a conciliatory gesture toward the Communist opposition Wednesday, agreeing to meet with parliamentary leaders to discuss the formation of a new government.

The meeting, scheduled for Thursday at the Bor government residence outside Moscow, is a limited and, so far, mostly symbolic concession to the State Duma's demands for consultations before it votes Friday on whether to approve Yeltsin's nominee, Sergei Kiriyenko, as prime minister.

The Duma, parliament's lower house, faces dissolution if deputies reject Kiriyenko three times. Wary of forcing a confrontation, lawmakers have been filibustering while negotiating for political concessions in exchange for approving Kiriyenko.

The Duma responded to Yeltsin's gesture by omitting a demand that Kiriyenko's nomination be withdrawn, passing a resolution calling only for consultations. The Federation Council, parliament's upper house made up of regional leaders, passed a similar resolution Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said, "The president's decision to hold the meeting ... may be considered an answer, a reaction by President Yeltsin to the call by the Federation Council and the State Duma for consultations before voting on the candidacy of Sergei Kiriyenko."

Invited to the meeting would be Gennady Seleznyov, the Communist speaker of the Duma; Yegor Stroyev, the chairman of the Federation Council; Kiriyenko; and Valentin Yumashev, the Kremlin chief of staff.

Kiriyenko has spent the last several days lobbying Duma factions and Tuesday won over the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia faction. Its leader, the ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said his deputies would cast all their 51 votes for Kiriyenko.

Zhirinovsky said Kiriyenko was the lesser evil, because approving him would deny Yeltsin the chance to dissolve the Duma and call new elections. "Of two evils, we must choose the lesser one," Zhirinovsky said. "We must weaken [Yeltsin] by letting him answer for everything: He has a weak prime minister, he has weak ministers."

The Communists and their allies, who make up the majority in the Duma, continued to criticize Kiriyenko, but did not commit themselves to blocking his nomination outright. The Communist faction is expected to make a final decision at a Communist Party plenum to take place Thursday.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said Wednesday that Kiriyenko "is a young man -- only 35; he's worked as a minister for only four months."And now they have harnessed him up so he can fail utterly in six months or so," he said. "In this situation, it would be much better if he worked as a first deputy prime minister."

Kiriyenko said that by tomorrow, "I will have completed consultations with the Duma fractions, and therefore, the president's decision is the correct one."

Seleznyov said the "Big Four" format of tomorrow's meeting was not an adequate substitute for broader, round-table discussions including trade union representatives, Interfax reported.

Although the Duma is scheduled to take up the nomination Friday, the vote may be postponed, possibly until next Wednesday, said Seleznyov, who proposed holding the broader talks Monday and Tuesday.

Boris Kagarlitsky, an expert in left-wing politics with the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the betting is that the Communists will eventually yield on Kiriyenko but must hold out for some sort of face-saving concessions. Just a photo opportunity in the flattering setting of the Bor residence, usually used to receive visiting heads of state, will not be enough, said Kagarlitsky.

"It could be anything, anything the leaders of the factions consider a fair deal," said Kagarlitsky. "[The offer of talks] is too little. But the very fact that Yeltsin negotiates with them will be considered a kind of con cession."

The Communists may seek inclusion of their proposals in the government's written agenda for the new government.

Yeltsin fired Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the rest of the Cabinet on March 23, saying the cause of economic reform was flagging and needed new energy. Yeltsin plucked Kiriyenko, the minister of fuel and energy and a member of the Cabinet for only a year, from obscurity to head the new government.

The president has indicated that he intends to reappoint some members of the dismissed government, including Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Defense Minister Ivan Sergeyev and Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov. It was announced earlier this week that former Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin is to become interior minister, replacing the fired Anatoly Kulikov.