Communists in Russia's opposition-dominated State Duma tried Tuesday to delay confirmation of President Boris Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, demanding the president consult legislators first.

Yeltsin dismissed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin earlier this month, saying his administration had failed to solve the country's pressing problems and was preoccupied with politics.He has nominated Sergei Kiriyenko, a 35-year-old former energy minister, as the new prime minister, but legislators in the Duma - parliament's lower house - have been highly critical of the nomination.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov told reporters that lawmakers are required to consider Kiriyenko's candidacy within a week - but insisted they do not have to vote on it Friday.

"We can consider it as long as we think necessary," he said.

The government is likely to fight the opposition's efforts to draw out the confirmation process.

Zyuganov's assertion that the Duma can put off a confirmation vote after Friday could conflict with the constitution, which some interpret as requiring the Duma to vote on the president's candidate within a week of nomination.

When he announced Kiriyenko's candidacy Friday, Yeltsin threatened to dissolve the Duma and call new elections if his condidate was not confirmed. Under the constitution, Yeltsin has such authority if the Duma rejects his nominee three times.

Tuesday, Yeltsin moved to lift some of the uncertainty about the new government, announcing at a Kremlin meeting that he has reappointed Mikhail Zadornov as finance minister. Zadornov, a respected lawmaker from the liberal Yabloko faction, was first appointed finance minister in November.