Friday, 27 June 1997 DELAY POSSIBLE IN UPPER HOUSE by Lawrence Uzzell, Keston News Service The Federation Council, upper house of the Russian parliament, is likely to insist on changes to the controversial bill on religious associations approved by the lower house on 23 June. That is the view of SERGEI IVANENKO, who as staff specialist for the Federation Council's Information and Analytical Directorate is in charge of preparing a preliminary analysis of the legislation for the Council's members. Up to now both supporters and opponents of the Duma's proposal have predicted that it will move swiftly through the upper house without any changes and will reach PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S desk by early July - but Ivanenko disagrees. 'I don't think the members of the Council will accept the bill without any changes', Ivanenko told Keston News Service in a 27 June interview. He cautioned that it is hard to predict the members' reactions, since none of them has read the bill yet. But he said that he is sure that most of them will want an 'even stricter version' ('bolyeye zhostky variant') of the legislation than the Duma does. They will be especially interested, he said, in strengthening the powers of the provincial governors to register and otherwise regulate religious bodies. (The upper house is dominated by the provincial governors to whom those bureaucracies are subordinate.) Ivanenko said that members may want to remove a provision in the Duma bill authored by pro-freedom deputy VALERI BORSHCHOV, which states that federal law is to prevail over provincial laws if there are contradictions between them on issues of religious freedom. Even though this provision only repeats a requirement in the federal constitution, he said, the members of the upper house 'won't like it on the emotional level'. Also, he observed, in several provinces such as Tatarstan the constitution is largely a dead letter in practice. Ivanenko said that the legislation will be considered next week at a closed meeting of the Federation Council's Committee on Science and Culture, probably on 1 or 2 July. It will then probably come before a session of the full Council later in the week. He cautioned that usually only a bare majority of members come to such sessions; thus if only five or six vote against for any reason(s), the measure will fail for lack of majority. If changes are needed in order to win the support of a majority, those changes must be negotiated by a joint commission of both houses - and it is already too late to form such a committee before the two-month summer recess. Therefore, he said, if there are any disagreements at all between the two houses of parliament there will be no chance of resolving them and reaching final passage before the autumn. (END)