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Pro-Kremlin party eyes no-confidence vote on Russian government

MOSCOW — Russia's leading pro-Kremlin political party said Monday it would consider proposing a no-confidence vote in the government of Mikhail Kasyanov after a similar move by the Communist Party.

Boris Gryzlov, parliamentary leader of the Unity Party, said his group was considering various options, including a vote that could result in the dismissal of the government or a new parliamentary election. The Communist Party, the largest group in the State Duma lower house, has proposed a similar motion.

Interfax news agency had earlier quoted the deputy head of Unity's parliamentary group, Frants Klintsevich, as saying Unity was proceeding with a no-confidence vote. The party later told news agencies he had been expressing a personal opinion.

Gryzlov said Unity would adopt a final position Tuesday and stood to make big gains if an election were called.

He said the Communists, the Duma's largest group despite reduced support in the 1999 election, were "trying to destabilize the situation."

"The Unity faction does not rule out a number of possible scenarios, including dissolution of the Duma, in connection with the Communists' plan to hold a no-confidence vote," Gryzlov said.

in a statement issued during a visit to Germany.

"Should there be new elections, Unity would win even more seats and strengthen its position in the lower house. I would say that 35-40 percent of voters would back us."

Party leaders were to hold a news conference at 1400 GMT.

The Duma has generally approved President Vladimir Putin's legislative initiatives since he came to power a little over a year ago. The Communists had fallen in behind his initiatives before proposing the no-confidence motion two weeks ago.

The Communists issued a list of complaints on Monday, accusing ministers of sacrificing their programmes to pay off foreign debt and denouncing any move towards free sale of land.

Other parties appeared unhappy at the prospect of new elections.

Gennady Raikov of the People's Deputy group, loosely aligned to the Kremlin, suggested the move was "an attempt to blow up the situation." Irina Khakamada of the liberal Union of Right-Wing Forces said ousting the government would give Putin "a free hand."

A no-confidence motion has to win 226 votes in the 450-seat Duma. Putin, who has so far stood behind Kasyanov, can ignore the initial vote. But if the Duma secures a similar majority in a repeat vote he must sack the government or call an early parliamentary election. Unity, together with the Communists and their allies, has enough seats to secure the necessary votes. The Kremlin has said that it would call an early election, in which Unity is expected to increase its seats, rather than sack the government.