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Senior Lithuanian official sees secession from union this year

A member of the Lithuanian Communist Party's ruling Politburo predicted Sunday that the republic would pull out of the Soviet Union this year. Politburo member Romualdas Ozalas said that after the new Lithuanian parliament, the Supreme Soviet, is elected Saturday, it would announce a return to the republic's prewar independence.

"The Supreme Soviet will take the decision on independence," he said in an interview in the Lithuanian capital. "It will happen this year without question."

Ozalas said the republic was likely to send a delegation to the Kremlin to negotiate the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

Algimantas Cekuolis, a member of the Lithuanian party's Central Committee, said: The parliament "will confirm the re-establishment of the situation in 1940."

Like neighboring Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania won its independence in 1918 but was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 after the Red Army moved in.

During a visit to Lithuania last month, President Mikhail Gorbachev said legislation would be put before the Soviet parliament soon setting out the terms under which a republic might leave the union.

Ozalas and Cekuolis said the Lithuanian party, which declared its independence from the Soviet party in December, would probably change its name once the republic had seceded.