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Putin, Clinton Get Along

June 4, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) _ Nobody heard them call each other ``Bill″ and ``Volodya,″ but the leaders of the United States and Russia had no apparent trouble getting along at their first summit.

For President Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin, reserved smiles replaced the gripping embraces and boisterous good humor of Clinton’s meetings with former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, whom he planned to see again before leaving Russia on Monday.

``For me, President Clinton is a ... person who is a very comfortable and pleasant partner in negotiations,″ Putin said at a news conference with Clinton at his side.

Clinton was less personal in response to the same question on how the two leaders view each other: ``If you want to know what my personal assessment is, I think he is fully capable of building a prosperous and strong Russia while preserving freedom, pluralism, and the rule of law.″

Clinton and Yeltsin called each other ``Bill″ and ``Boris,″ and when Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in St. Petersburg on April 29, the two called each Other ``Yoshi″ and ``Volodya.″

A senior U.S. officials, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, denied any significance to the fact that Clinton and Putin did not use first names _ at least not in their first meeting _ and brushed off a question about the chemistry between the two leaders.

``There was a very easy-going nature to the conversation. It was quite clear that they knew each other, that they knew a lot about each other’s positions, and they were very interested in hearing directly from each other about each other’s positions,″ the official said.

After dinner together Saturday night, Clinton and Putin held formal talks Sunday.

Both came out praising the talents of the other, with Putin being the more lavish.

``If everyone behaves the way President Clinton has behaved, not trying to find dead ends and problems, but to seek ways of moving ahead, I think between us in the future our relations really will be successful,″ Putin said, speaking in Russian with a translator.

He said the two leaders established ``not only good business ties, but also personal relations.″

Clinton stressed his ``really serious work″ with Putin and reserved the warmest praise for Putin’s ability to express candid disagreement.

``We expressed our differences with clarity and candor, and I, for one, appreciate that,″ he said.

Putin made it clear his intention of having good relations with America go beyond any personal relationship with Clinton, pointedly saying he knew the positions of the main U.S. presidential rivals.

When Clinton passes the baton, he said, ``no matter who gets to be president, we’re willing to go forward on either one of these approaches.″

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