President Mikhail S. Gorbachev Thursday responded to stinging attacks by hard-liners at a Communist Party leadership meeting by saying he would quit as party chief if they could muster a no-confidence vote.
But the party Central Committee rejected any question of his resignation by an overwhelming vote, on the recommendation of the top leadership in the Politburo, delegates said.Gorbachev's offer to resign, and the subsequent vote, were confirmed by delegates interviewed during a break in the closed-door meeting.
Gorbachev's offer came after Russian Communist Party chief Ivan Polozkov accused him of "abandoning the party," one Central Committee member told The Associated Press. Polozkov also criticized Gorbachev for failing to take harsh measures to restore order and urged him to declare a state of emergency.
In a tactic he has used before, Gorbachev made what one delegate called a "half-serious" suggestion that he would resign if the Central Committee voted that way.
Deputy party chief Vladimir Ivashko announced that the Politburo, which handles the party's day-to-day affairs, had rejected the idea.
The 410-member Central Committee voted not to pursue the issue, with only 13 delegates in favor of putting a no-confidence question on the agenda, said observer Andrei Chaikovsky of Kaliningrad.
Thursday's criticism of Gorbachev came the day after he disclosed a new agreement with nine of the 15 republic leaders, including Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in which he promised new legislative and presidential elections.
On Wednesday, Gorbachev had used that deal to fend off a challenge from the party hard-liners in the first day of the two-day, closed-door meeting of top Communists in the Kremlin. His victory then made it unlikely that the hard-liners could muster a serious challenge today.
If Gorbachev gave up the Communist Party leadership, he would remain president of the country.
Meanwhile in Lithuania, Soviet troops Thursday occupied at least a dozen buildings, including several technical schools, a clothing factory, a hotel and a sports complex, the Lithuanian Parliament reported.
Tensions have been running high in Lithuania since the January crackdown by Soviet troops in the Baltics, which left at least 22 people dead. Troops have occupied buildings sporadically for about a year, trying to hamper Lithuania's drive for independence.