President Mikhail S. Gorbachev met with Eduard A. Shevardnadze Friday, one day after the foreign minister's stunning resignation, and a presidential aide indicated Shevardnadze might retain a government post.
The two Soviet officials discussed the Persian Gulf crisis and arms control treaties, several government spokesmen said.When pressed, presidential spokesman Vitaly Ignatenko indicated Shevardnadze might keep some post in government.
"You don't resign and shut the door of the Cabinet behind you in one minute," Ignatenko said. Gorbachev will study foreign reaction to the resignation before deciding on a replacement, Ignatenko said.
It was not known whether Shevardnadze would take part in a Moscow arms control summit Feb. 11-13 between Gorbachev and President Bush. Shevardnadze's resignation prompted worldwide concern over the course of Soviet foreign policy and the future of the nation's internal reform program.
Earlier Friday, Gorbachev aide Georgy Shakhnazarov said Shevardnadze would stay "on Gorbachev's team" but offered no other details, said the state news agency, Tass.
Shevardnadze told parliament Thursday that he did not want any part of a "dictatorship" being created under pressure of hard-liners.
His resignation dominated discussion in the Congress of People's Deputies Friday morning, and a Ukrainian lawmaker later said a right-wing coup was going on under the parliament's nose.
Vladimir Chernyak, a deputy from Kiev, cited the resignation of Shevardnadze and the replacement of Interior Minister Vadim Bakatin last month as evidence of the right-wing at work.
"A right-wing reactionary coup is taking place in the country," Chernyak said in the parliament.
"Reactionaries, centralists and imperialists have united and are on the attack. At the head of the coup stands Gorbachev. It's possible he himself doesn't know it. By demanding for himself more and more powers, he is creating the legal basis for a dictatorship - maybe not for himself personally."
Gorbachev, who had returned to the Palace of Congresses after meeting with Shevardnadze, sat forward in his chair and listened to the speech intently with a look of displeasure on his face. He said nothing.
Hard-liners have urged Gorbachev to impose a state of emergency in republics ridden by ethnic conflict and separatist movements. Gorbachev has asked the Congress of People's Deputies to consider constitutional amendments to strengthen his power to deal with such trouble spots.
A representative of the reformist Inter-Regional Group told Gorbachev Friday to reject pressure from hard-liners.
"We share the alarm of Foreign Minister Shevardnadze about the possibility of the breakup of democratic processes in the country and the danger of the establishment of a reactionary dictatorship," said Vitaly A. Chelyshev.
"We are seriously disturbed that the most visible actors in perestroika, . . . under the pressure of reactionary forces, have been forced out of political activity," he said, citing former Politburo member Alexander Yakovlev, Shevardnadze and Bakatin.
He urged delegations from the Baltic republics and Armenia that have walked out of the Congress to return immediately.
Twenty-two deputies, including leading reformers Oleg Bogomolov, Nikolai Shmelev and Fyodor Burlatsky, Friday formed a new group called Popular Consent, aimed at averting a dictatorship.
Army Chief of Staff Mikhail Moiseyev Friday said he adamantly disagreed with Shevardnadze's warning of a "coming dictatorship" and said there was no reason to impose a state of emergency.
"We have a mature Supreme Soviet (legislature), which is able to decide matters linked with constitutional conflicts through negotiations," Moiseyev said at the Congress, according to Tass.