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Yeltsin Calls for Speedy Elections

By Ken Fireman



President Boris N. Yeltsin, armed with new political authority after his victory in a national referendum, called Thursday for quick elections for a new Parliament and promised to purge opponents of his economic and political reforms from the government.

But Yeltsin, in a nationally televised speech, offered few clues about how he planned to overcome the strong opposition of the country's existing Parliament to his proposals for constitutional change.

The only concrete step the president announced -- introduction of a draft law calling for elections later this year to a new federal Parliament -- is almost certain to be brushed aside by lawmakers.

Nevertheless, Yeltsin characterized the results of the April 25 referendum, in which more than 58 percent of the voters expressed support for him and 53 percent for his policies, as a clear message to Parliament to move out of lis way.

``This is a major political defeat of the Russian legislature," Yeltsin said. ``It is high time the deputies made up their minds whether they accept the people's choice or will continue to reject the course of the president and government which have the backing of the Russian people. Their political future will depend on that."

Yeltsin denounced his vice president, Alexander Rutskoi, as an enemy of reforms and condemned as illegal an attempt by opposition legislators to implement their own version of a new constitution in a meeting scheduled for Friday.

He also accused his parliamentary opponents of complicity in Saturday's rioting during a pro-communist May Day demonstration that left one police officer dead and hundreds of people injured.

``The neo-Bolsheviks are again ready ... to plunge the country into an abyss of violence and chaos in order to seize power," Yeltsin said. ``This is not to be ... We will not allow a second civil war."

The riot was the subject of heated debate in Parliament Thursday. Opposition deputies blamed Yeltsin, Moscow city authorities and police, accusing the government of trovoking the confrontation to gain a pretext for suppressing their critics.

But Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Interior Minister Viktor Yerin said their officers had only fought back after being attacked by demonstrators.

Many fear a repetition of the violence Sunday, a national holiday marking the country's victory over Nazi Germany. The same groups who staged Saturday's violent action have been denied a permit but have vowed to march anyway. Authorities have vowed to take stiff measures to prevent them from doing so.