Lithuania roars out for independence Lithuanian vote surprises even its leadership

February 11, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

VILNIUS, U.S.S.R. -- Lithuania is like a Baltic mouse that roared. Its problem will be finding a way to make Moscow listen.

Political leaders in Lithuania had been certain of success in the plebiscite for independence over the weekend, but the sheer scale of the triumph staggered them. More than 90 percent of those voting favored independence from the Soviet Union.

It was "a victory against lies, against attempts to scare us, against fear," President Vytautas Landsbergis said yesterday. In televised message to his countryman, he said, "Today, we did good work and took one more step along the road."

Just how to exploit that latest step and promote Lithuania's quest for the restoration of its independence was to be debated by Parliament here when it reconvenes today, but initiatives are being contemplated in at least three fields -- diplomacy, the economy and the law -- although some of them are likely to be far more symbolic than capable of achieving practical results.

Winning rapid acceptance abroad is highly improbable. Only distant Iceland has effectively recognized Lithuanian sovereignty and that gesture drew a stinging rebuke last week from the Soviet Foreign Ministry, which accused the small North Atlantic Treaty Organization member of meddling in Soviet internal affairs.

In domestic matters, the Lithuanian Parliament's spokesman, Audrius Azubalis, said the republic's chief task in building on Saturday's popular mandate is adoption of an economic reform law.

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