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Yeltsin, Opponents Agree to Negotiate Constitutional Crisis

By Lee Hockstader
The Washington Post


President Boris Yeltsin, facing an open revolt from provincial lawmakers and continued clashes between police and demonstrators in the streets of Moscow, Thursday agreed to negotiate with his parliamentary opponents to overcome the country's constitutional crisis.

Yeltsin appointed two top aides to meet with representatives of the parliament at talks beginning Friday, to be mediated by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II at his monastery here.

Despite the announcement, Yeltsin gave no indication that he is willing to reconsider his Sept. 21 decree dismissing parliament and ordering new legislative elections. Past negotiations and tentative accords between the president and parliament under less complicated circumstances often have dissolved into recriminations and renewed political skirmishing.

Yeltsin gave no sign, either, of having budged from his insistence that the dozens of members of parliament and their heavily armed guards still inside the building -- known as the White House -- come out by Monday or face "serious consequences."

"We are talking about how to free the White House calmly, without endangering citizens' lives," said Yeltsin's spokesman, Yuri Leonov.

Word of negotiations came after Yeltsin dispatched his top aides to the Russian hinterlands, where local legislatures are rebelling against him. In a development that seemed related, he signed an order granting pay increases of 80 percent to officials in local governments, courts and prosecutors' offices.

Senior officials from conservative local legislatures across Russia, meeting here Thursday at the Russian Constitutional Court, demanded that the siege of the parliament building be lifted immediately.

The group, which calls itself a Council of Federation Members of Russia, threatened to take unspecified "economic and political measures" if he failed to act tonight.

Some regions, especially in the sprawling land mass east of the Ural Mountains, already have voted to withhold tax revenues from the capital or are threatening to leave Moscow without oil and gas supplies.

The most immediate challenge came from lawmakers in Siberia, the vast Russian frontier where some 25 million people live in an area larger than United States. On Wednesday, they threatened to secede from the union unless Yeltsin revokes his decree abolishing parliament.

News agencies reported Thursday that Siberian leaders were threatening to cut rail service on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which links European Russia with Siberia, unless Yeltsin lifts his siege. Estimates of the dwindling number of legislators still there vary from 100 to 300.

Regional representatives in both the Urals and the Far East have met to discuss breaking away from the Russian Federation. Neighborhood councils within Russia's two largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, have also sided with parliament.