MOSCOW, NOV. 11 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin made a new attempt here today to bridge their differences over the transition to a market economy and the division of powers between the central government and the 15 Soviet republics.
According to Soviet and Western news services, the two also discussed emergency economic measures. "They haven't reached a final agreement, but they are on their way to one," an aide to Yeltsin told the Reuter news agency.
It was the first substantive meeting between the two most powerful politicians in the Soviet Union since Yeltsin accused Gorbachev of breaking a pledge to adopt a fast-track 500-day economic program. The meeting was set up over the Revolution Day holiday after a Soviet legislator called on both men to put aside their political rivalry in the interests of the country.
"It is incomprehensible who or what stands in the way of these two leaders who know the people's needs and whom the people recognize. Both must realize that continued opposition will cost them support," Leonid Bliznov, a member of the Soviet legislature, told a Kremlin rally.
The Soviet news agency Tass said that Gorbachev and Yeltsin met first in private and were later joined by close aides, including Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov and Russian Premier Ivan Silaev. Ryzhkov conducted a fierce and ultimately successful campaign to persuade Gorbachev that the 500-day program was too risky because it allowed the devolution of too much economic and political power away from central authorities.
In the meantime, the Soviet economy has continued to deteriorate, making the argument over which plan to adopt largely academic. In an open letter published last week, two of Gorbachev's economic advisers said that money was now being printed at such a rate that neither the compromise plan supported by Ryzhkov nor the 500-day plan backed by Yeltsin had much chance of success.
The legislature of the Russian republic has said it will go ahead with the 500-day program, which includes plans for sales of state-owned industry and measures to cut the budget deficit. As the largest by far of the Soviet Union's 15 constituent republics, Russia theoretically stands the best chance of going it alone, but there is widespread skepticism that any economic plan is workable without the support of both the federal and republican governments.
"It can't possibly succeed," said Sergei Stankevich, the radical-reformist deputy mayor of Moscow. "The only possible solution is for Gorbachev and Yeltsin to agree on a common plan. This meeting represents their second attempt to do so."
The attempt by Gorbachev and Yeltsin to reach a new understanding could be complicated by a bizarre shooting incident in Red Square during the Nov. 7 military parade. The affair has now taken on a political complexion as a result of the revelation that the gunman, Alexander Shmonov, was active in two radical movements in Leningrad, the Popular Front and the Free Democratic Party.
A conservative newspaper, Sovietskaya Rossiya, quoted Shmonov's former work supervisor as saying his participation in propaganda activities on behalf of the radicals "helped him ripen to the point of committing a terrorist act." Spokesmen for the two groups have described the 38-year-old welder as suspiciously pliable and eager to please, suggesting that he may have been manipulated by the KGB security police.