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Sunday, September 13, 1998 Published at 01:39 GMT 02:39 UK

World: Europe

Yeltsin assures Clinton reforms continue

President Yeltsin: Primakov will stick with reforms

President, Boris Yeltsin, has assured United States President Bill Clinton that his new government will continue with Russia's economic reforms. He told Mr Clinton that he saw no alternative to a market economy.

Russia crisis
Mr Yeltsin was speaking during a telephone call made by Mr Clinton to reassure him of Washington's support for Russia's reform process under its new Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov.

"The Russian President underlined the stability of foreign policy, including the mutually beneficial and equal partnership with the US, consistency in reforms and the lack of any alternative to market-oriented policies," a Kremlin statement said.

Mr Primakov - former foreign minister and a widely respected career diplomat - was voted in on Friday after Yeltsin backed down in a stand-off with the lower house of parliament, the Duma.

In his first day in office, Mr Primakov said Russia would repay all its debts and would not allow itself to be declared bankrupt.

He was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying on Saturday: "Russia is not refusing to carry out its obligations. We shall pay all of our debts."

So far, Mr Primakov has indicated that his policies will be a combination of greater economic reform and an increased role for the state in regulating the market.

As a sign of a possible change of direction on the economy, the Duma confirmed Viktor Gerashchenko as central bank chairman, reinstalling the man who once headed the Soviet Union's central bank.

Spokesman sacked

Meanwhile, President Yeltsin has dismissed his spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

[ image: Sergei Yastrzhembsky: Sacked without explanation]
Sergei Yastrzhembsky: Sacked without explanation
In a statement, the Kremlin press service said he had also been dropped from his post of deputy head of the president's office and would be given other duties involving economic issues, but gave no details, nor reasons for the change.

In an interview with the Interfax news agency, Mr Yastrzhembsky, 44, said he doubted he would remain in government service.

"If one, two or more officials must pay the price of their dismissals for the civilian peace and accord in Russian society, it is not too big a price," he said.

Mr Yastrzhembsky has been widely credited with giving a smooth, professional face to the Kremlin press service

Observers say he might have been regarded as too much of a reformer by the new government.

Old Guard appointments

[ image: Yuri Maslyukov: Former Soviet planning minister]
Yuri Maslyukov: Former Soviet planning minister
Mr Primakov has appointed a Communist, Yuri Maslyukov, as his first deputy prime minister in the new government.

Mr Maslyukov formerly headed the Soviet state planning agency.

Igor Ivanov has been named as foreign minister, promoted from the number two job at the ministry.

BBC correspondents in Moscow say that unlike his predecessors, Mr Primakov and his government will have general support within the Duma.

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