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LAWMAKERS SAY `NYET’ TO GORBACHEV STRIKE PLEA

SHARE LAWMAKERS SAY `NYET’ TO GORBACHEV STRIKE PLEA

Lawmakers Tuesday handed President Mikhail S. Gorbachev a rare defeat, rejecting his plea for an emergency ban on strikes that he warns could destroy the ravaged Soviet economy.

The lawmakers worked through the night on a weaker alternative empowering the government to take control of the country's railways by Monday if necessary to end a blockade related to the Azerbaijani-Armenian dispute.They also considered imposing a limited ban on strikes in key industries: energy, oil, transport and metallurgy. But no vote was taken.

Gorbachev on Monday gave the legislators until Tuesday to decide on his proposal to ban strikes for 15 months. When the Supreme Soviet, or parliament, reconvened, lawmakers debated the reworded resolution.

During a break, Interior Ministery Vadim Bakatin called the strike-ban proposal unconstitutional.

"We don't have a basis for deciding what is an extraordinary situation," he said.

Leonid Abalkin, a deputy premier in charge of economic reform, said the initiative to change the draft resolution came during an overnight meeting of deputies and not from Gorbachev.

"Everyone wants to be sympathetic, wants the public to like them, and nobody wants to take the responsibility," he said.

Marju Lauristin, a deputy and leader of the Estonian Popular Front, said she favored a limit on strikes called for political reasons, which she said could be used as an excuse for military intervention.

Gorbachev, in calling for a ban on strikes, called the measure necessary "to protect democratization from anarchy and irresponsible management."

By inserting the threat to take over operations and security on the country's railroads, the legislators were acting to bring an end to a blockade by Azerbaijanis of rail lines leading from their republic into Armenia.

Soviet law does not ban strikes outright. But labor unrest was ruthlessly repressed before Gorbachev came to power in 1985.