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Latvian Parliament OKs New Govt.

May 6, 2000

RIGA, Latvia (AP) _ Latvia’s parliament on Friday approved a new center-right government led by Andris Berzins, a popular former mayor of Riga who has pledged to maintain the Baltic state’s pro-reform, pro-West course.

The 100-seat Saeima parliament voted along party lines, 69 to 24, to approve the government with Berzins at its helm. Seven deputies either weren’t present or didn’t vote.

In a speech to assembled deputies before the vote, Berzins said he was committed to the open-market economic policies adhered to by all of Latvia’s governments since the country regained independence following the 1991 Soviet collapse.

He said he would also keep pushing for Latvian membership in the European Union and NATO.

``It’s important that we maintain our foreign policy goals, and by promoting Latvian integration into the EU and trans-Atlantic security structures we do that,″ he said.

The vote was delayed after virtually all the deputies, and Berzins, gathered around television sets outside the parliament hall to watch the final minutes of a world ice hockey championship game between Latvia and Russia, which Latvia won 3-2.

The coalition includes all the parties that made up the previous government _ Berzins’ centrist Latvia’s Way and People’s Party, and the right-wing Fatherland and Freedom _ plus the small, centrist New Party. Combined they have 69 seats.

Berzins, a former history teacher, has been one of Latvia’s most popular politicians. He won praise as Riga’s recent mayor for reviving the capital’s business district.

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