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Soviet reformer urges expansion of Gorbachev's powers

A top Soviet parliamentarian has urged the rapid expansion of President Mikhail Gorbachev's powers, saying his post must be strengthened to prevent the country's collapse. Sergei Alexeyev, a leading reformist who heads the constitutional supervision commission, was quoted Wednesday in the weekly Moscow News.

Gorbachev proposed a powerful new presidential post this month as part of his plan to restructure the state and transfer power from the Communist Party to elected officials.

Moscow News said the Supreme Soviet was preparing a session of the Congress of People's Deputies, the expanded parliament, which would consider creating the post. It alone has the power to change the constitution.

Gorbachev sought unsuccessfully this month to have a date fixed for the Congress session.

With unrest spreading across the south of the country in recent months from Moldavia through the Caucasus to Central Asia, support has grown for a leader with more clearly-defined presidential powers.

"It is as though our country were in a region threatened by a landslide and I would like to get out of this situation as soon as possible," Alexeyev told Moscow News.

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