President Boris Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister told a senior U.S. official Monday that Russia's political turmoil would not hamper Russia's free-market reforms.

"Our course for the continuation of reforms remains unchanged," Sergei Kiriyenko told Strobe Talbott, the visiting deputy secretary of state.Kiriyenko, 35, has been rejected twice in the past two weeks by the State Duma, parliament's lower house. But he remained optimistic about his chances to be confirmed in the third and final vote this week.

"The probability of endorsement is quite high," Kiriyenko told Russia's NTV network on Sunday.

The constitution gives Yeltsin the power to dissolve parliament and call new elections if lawmakers fail to confirm his candidate in three votes.

The Communists, the largest bloc in the Duma, have led the opposition to Kiriyenko, citing his youth and government inexperience.

Despite that, Gennady Seleznyov, a Communist who is speaker of the Duma, has called on lawmakers to accept Yeltsin's choice to save the parliament.

Another prominent hard-liner, Nikolai Kharitonov, the leader of the Communist-allied Agrarian faction, echoed Seleznyov's call.