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U.S. Doctor Says Yeltsin Healthy

May 22, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin is in excellent health, his heart is working well after bypass surgery and there are no medical reasons why he could not run for re-election, his American heart consultant said Friday.

Michael DeBakey also said he found the 67-year-old to be ``mentally quite vigorous.″

``It was a great pleasure to see the president and to see how well and vigorous he looked,″ DeBakey said at a news conference after spending two hours with Yeltsin.

``It was very gratifying to find that his heart is functioning so well and that his general health is excellent.″

DeBakey, who consulted on Yeltsin’s quintuple bypass heart surgery in November 1996, did not perform a physical examination of Yeltsin on Friday.

He said his upbeat health report was based on his observations of Yeltsin’s appearance and behavior and the results of a recent physical, which he has reviewed.

``If a person is not in good health, we as physicians are trained to see that ... and I can assure you that he didn’t have any evidence of that,″ the Houston-based cardiologist said.

When asked about reports that Yeltsin sometimes rambles when he talks and appears disoriented in public, DeBakey insisted, ``If he’s had any episodes of that kind, he’s not demonstrated it when I was with him.″

DeBakey said Yeltsin had no medical problems that would prevent him from seeking re-election in 2000.

Yeltsin says he doesn’t plan to run a third time, but has left himself some wiggle room. The Russian constitution limits a president to two terms, but some of Yeltsin’s supporters say his first term began during Soviet times so it should not count.

Yeltsin has been sick several times since his heart surgery. DeBakey said he was briefed on each occasion and believes Yeltsin’s repeated recoveries are evidence that his heart is working well.

DeBakey said he expects Yeltsin to have ``a long survival expectancy.″ Sixty is the average life expectancy for Russian men.

DeBakey is in Moscow to promote the Russian edition of his book, ``The New Living Heart.″

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