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SOVIETS TIGHTEN GRIP BY CUTTING OFF COAL SUPPLIES

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The Soviet Union stopped coal supplies to Lithuania Saturday, tightening a blockade that has deprived the Baltic republic of oil and most natural gas in an attempt to force it to suspend its independence drive.

The political stalemate over independence continued, however, with Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis saying in the republic's capital, "We cannot suspend the declaration because it is linked with a lot of other legal acts."There had been hopes for some movement toward compromise Friday when Landsbergis said he was studying a Franco-West Germany suggestion that the March 11 declaration of independence be suspended to allow negotiations with Moscow.

Landbergis did not rule out the possibility of compromise Saturday, saying the Lithuanian Parliament was ready to discuss "disputable questions," and he called on France and West Germany to attempt to mediate the dispute.

Lithuanian government spokesman Ceslovas Jarsenas said in addition to the cutoff of coal announced by Moscow Saturday, the Soviet government was also stopping supplies of rubber, plastic, coffee, tea, cooking oil, newsprint, tractors, automobiles and spare parts to force Lithuania into lengthy secession talks on the Kremlin's terms.

Vladimir Kostyunin, the deputy chairman of the Soviet committee for supplies, said Lithuania had large reserves of coal imported from Poland in Soviet deals that it had not yet paid for.

"Coal supplies to the republic have been stopped because of this," Kostyunin told Soviet television.

Jarsenas confirmed Lithuania had coal reserves and said the new Soviet action was not likely to cause immediate shortages.

Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene, who leaves for Canada and the United States Sunday to plead Lithuania's cause and solicit help, said her government would break the economic blockade by making direct deals with enterprises in the Russian and Ukrainian republics - trading product for product, such as meat for oil.

Prunskiene said two tankers would be arriving at the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda on May 12 and May 14, but she did not say where they were coming from, what they were carrying or how Lithuania had arranged for the shipments.

Landsbergis' comments Saturday appeared to put him at odds with Prunskiene, who welcomed a letter from French President Francois Mitterrand and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl suggesting Lithuania suspend its declaration of independence and other acts on sovereignty.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's spokesman, Arkady Maslennikov, said Saturday the Mitterrand-Kohl letter "stands not far from the line which has been pursued by the Soviet leaders from the beginning."

"The position of the Soviet president and the government on the Lithuanian problem has not changed. Its settlement must be achieved in the framework of the Soviet constitution," Maslennikov said.

Besides declaring independence on March 11, Lithuania's Parliament has passed an entire series of acts such as banning conscription into the Soviet army and issuing Lithuanian identity cards. Moscow says such laws contravene the Soviet Constitution and has demanded their suspension or recall.