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PARLIAMENT LEADER BACKS YELTSIN

The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament rallied behind President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko on Saturday, dismissing calls for them to resign over the country's financial crisis.

"I think it would be premature to remove the government," Yegor Stroyev told Interfax news agency, one day after the State Duma (lower house) criticized Kiriyenko and adopted a resolution urging Yeltsin to quit.

Stroyev, 61, defended Yeltsin as he has done regularly since becoming upper house speaker more than two years ago and called for cooperation to take the place of confrontation.

The opposition-dominated Duma slammed the 4-month-old government on Friday at a special session on the crisis. It particularly attacked this week's de facto devaluation of the ruble and what many analysts said amounted to a debt default.

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