Mikhail Gorbachev on Friday urged his fellow Soviet leaders to agree on action to quickly extend reform aimed at democratizing the country's political system.
"We must not lose time; we must act and act decisively, be more demanding in achieving the solution of practical problems which are becoming increasingly acute politically," he told a meeting of the Communist Party's Central Committee.The top Kremlin leadership itself emerged unchanged from the one-day meeting of the policy-making body, called as a follow-up to last month's party conference, which largely endorsed Gorbachev's perestroika reform program.
There had been widespread rumors of possible personnel changes involving older members of the ruling 13-man Politburo closely linked to the now officially discredited leadership of the late Leonid Brezhnev.
But Soviet analysts said Gorbachev clearly preferred at this stage to avoid confrontation with the more conservative elements in the Kremlin team, whose support he needs to continue pushing ahead with reform.
The 300-member policy-setting Central Committee agreed to set up a commission to prepare proposals on implementing reform of the Soviet political system.
Political reform was the main topic of the conference, which approved changes aimed at democratizing Soviet society including multicandidate elections to both party and state posts.
It was not immediately clear why a commission - to be headed by Gorbachev - was needed at this stage. Some analysts said it could be seen by radical reformers as slowing down change.
The Kremlin leader's speech to the session, held in Central Committee headquarters in the heart of Moscow, was phrased in terms suggesting he sensed an urgent need to press ahead.
"The time has come for action, for concrete deeds, comrades," he declared, according to a text issued through the official Tass news agency. "It is a time of growing responsibility for all party organizations, for every employee, every working collective and every worker."
Gorbachev said the conference, which saw free-wheeling debate unprecedented since the early 1920s, "convincingly demonstrated our party's mighty potential."
It showed the Soviet people wanted "perestroika," his wide-ranging blueprint for a radical reshaping of society, to be pursued consistently so that it becomes irreversible, he said.
But Gorbachev said the conference had also demonstrated the persistence of "conservative sentiments, a longing for the past, of attempts to sow doubt and portray perestroika . . . almost as social destabilization."
Gorbachev, as cited by Tass, said nationwide discussion of a new draft law making the election system democratic would be held in October.