The Soviet government agreed Wednesday to lift partially its economic blockade of Lithuania by supplying more natural gas and other raw materials to the republic, Lithuanian Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene told the Soviet news agency Tass.
Prunskiene met with Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov on Wednesday to discuss the blockade - imposed to force the republic to back off its declaration of independence - a day after the presidents of the three Baltic republics met with President Mikhail Gorbachev.Meanwhile, officials said Gorbachev wants to counter secessionist drives by transforming the Soviet Union into a looser federation of sovereign states.
Gorbachev made his proposal about the Soviet republics on Tuesday, the same day the parliament of the huge
Russian republic approved a resolution declaring its laws to carry more weight than federal statutes.
Tuesday's proposal for a union of "sovereign states" is the closest that Gorbachev has come to publicly considering such a radical change.
Soviet and Baltic officials indicated after Tuesday's meeting the blockade could be lifted if Lithuania agreed to freeze temporarily its March 11 declaration of independence during negotiations on secession.
Prunskiene said agreement was reached in her meeting with Ryzhkov on a "partial increase in gas deliveries on the supply of raw materials to several of the republic's enterprises," Tass said.
"We do not doubt the lifting of the economic blockade," Prunskiene said. "This was said absolutely concretely."
Prunskiene said the Lithuanian government "should very thoroughly discuss the question of suspending for the period of possible negotiations with the Soviet Union the act on Lithuanian independence from March 11."
Both sides seem to have softened their stands in recent days in an effort to reach a compromise.
Prior to this week's meetings, Gorbachev had demanded that Lithuania and the two other Baltic republics, Latvia and Estonia, rescind or suspend their declarations of independence before any talks on secession could be held. On Tuesday he proposed the idea of a temporary freeze of the declarations.
Lithuania had previously refused to consider suspending its declaration of independence, offering instead to suspend laws implementing independence but not the proclamation itself.
Gorbachev cut off all oil, most natural gas and other raw materials to Lithuania in April in an attempt to force them to back down from independence. The partial blockade has seriously harmed the Lithuanian economy.
The presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said they were encouraged by their meeting with Gorbachev Tuesday and were taking home compromise proposals that might end the deadlock on Baltic independence.
"It might be possible to find a way out of today's situation so that a true political dialogue could begin between Lithuania and the Soviet Union with simultaneous ending of the blockade," Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis said Tuesday night.
Landsbergis told the Lithuanian Parliament in Vilnius Wednesday the talks in Moscow took place in a "positive atmosphere."
"It was obvious there is a desire to solve the problem and come to a solution that is not one-sided," Lithuanian government spokeswoman Rita Dapkus said.
Dapkus said Landsbergis did not make a concrete proposal on a possible compromise, adding that any concrete moves will be discussed privately in the next several days.
Landsbergis, Latvian President Anatoljs Gorbunovs and Estonian President Arnold Ruutel met with Gorbachev for more than an hour.