Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev issued a decree on property Friday that appeared designed to protect the huge holdings of the Communist Party and official trade unions.

Gorbachev's decree says it is a response to "illegal confiscations of property belonging to state and public institutions and organizations as well as encroachments on the property of individuals."Nearly all property in the Soviet Union is still owned by the state, the Communist Party or official organizations, despite talk of privatization as part of economic reform plans. There is little existing individual property for the decree to protect.

Friday's decree ordered that Interior Ministry troops "shall be instructed to guard, in case of necessity, items of state and collective property if there is a danger of their confiscation."

As local governments in the Soviet Union declare their sovereignty from Moscow, efforts have been made to establish local control of property and force the Communist Party to turn over its holdings.

The presidential decree, issued under new economic powers granted by Parliament, came four days after the city of Ternopol in the Ukraine ordered an inventory of Communist Party property as a first step toward the city taking ownership of the buildings and land.

Gorbachev sent troops to Lithuania earlier this year in part to protect Communist Party property after the republic declared its independence and a pro-independence faction of Communists split from the central party.

The Communist Party abandoned its monopoly on power in February but still controls economic production and owns valuable buildings and vast tracts of real estate. The party declared at this week's plenum of the Central Committee it intended to hold on to its property.

A law on property passed by the Supreme Soviet on March 6 recognizes there are other forms of property than state or collective ownership, but it fell short of endorsing private property.