Cautious Latvia Promises to Respect Soviet Interests : Secession: Leaders hope Gorbachev will agree to talks. Meanwhile, tanks roll through the capital.

From Times Wire Services

Latvia promised Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev on Monday that the Baltic republic will respect Soviet interests despite its declaration of independence and expressed the hope that talks would open soon.

Hours before, Gorbachev had asked for complete information about Latvia’s independence declaration last Friday.

Latvian President Anatoly Gorbunov assigned several members of Parliament to prepare a reply.

Also Monday, Latvia’s Parliament elected a new prime minister, Ivars Godmanis, a physics professor and leader of the Popular Front.


Godmanis said in a telephone interview that he hopes Gorbachev will find the Latvian declaration of independence more moderate than that of Lithuania or Estonia and agree to negotiations.

Chairman Dainis Ivans of the Popular Front, which has led the push for independence, called Gorbachev’s request “wonderful.”

He told reporters, “This gives us a chance to present our point of view.” The letter from Parliament explained certain points in the declaration, then concluded: “We express the certainty that the character of the declaration, the retention of current constitutional norms and sincere desire to respect the interests of the U.S.S.R. will meet with your understanding and open the way to a fruitful dialogue in the spirit of honest cooperation between equals.”

Earlier in the day, Soviet tanks and other armored vehicles rumbled through rush-hour traffic in Riga, the Latvian capital.

The maneuvers were officially billed as preparations for a World War II victory parade Wednesday, but some observers saw them as a tactic by Moscow to intimidate Latvians over their republic’s independence declaration.

Ivans, however, said he was reluctant to consider it a scare tactic, such as those used in Lithuania. “It might mean a demonstration of force,” he said. “But we are trying to approach it very tolerantly.”

In Moscow on Monday, Gorbachev condemned “separatists” in a speech to a group of veterans. But the Tass report did not say he mentioned Latvia directly.

“There are forces that would like to use the atmosphere of democracy, glasnost (openness) and freedom to implement their futile ambitious plans, including separatist plans,” Gorbachev said.