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LARGEST REFORM MOVEMENT CREATES NEW POLITICAL PARTY

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Russia's largest reform movement, Russia's Choice, created a new political party Sunday in hopes of strengthening reform forces and promoting the growth of a market economy.

At a founding congress, Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said the new party was being created "to defend Russia and its dignity, to turn it into a country of free and well-off people."Delegates voted to call the new party Russia's Democratic Choice.

Since nationalists and Communists scored big in parliamentary elections in December, many reform leaders have called for uniting their forces. Decades of Communist Party hegemony have made many reform-minded Russians skeptical of political parties and hesitant to form or join them.

The Russia's Choice bloc was the biggest reformist bloc in the election, but other reformers in President Boris Yeltsin's camp formed other factions.

It was not clear whether they would join Russia's Democratic Choice.

According to Gaidar, the architect of Russia's market reforms, the new party will represent political forces supporting Yeltsin but will not be led by Yeltsin himself.

Yeltsin has said the president represents all the people and should not have any party affiliation.

In opening remarks at the two-day congress, Gaidar outlined the new party's goals, including creating an environment for stable economic development.

Gaidar, a former acting prime minister and economics minister under Yeltsin, also called for reducing the size of the armed forces and reorganizing the bloated state bureaucracy.

In foreign policy, Gaidar said relations with the former Soviet republics were most important. "It is necessary to work steadfastly for the creation of a single market on the territory of the former Soviet Union," he said.