Fri, Apr 27, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Putin not seeking another term, but names no successor

AP , MOSCOW

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday made his clearest rejection yet of speculation that he would try to seek a third term, but gave no hint in his state of the nation address as to whom he sees as his preferred successor.

Putin's second -- and constitutionally mandated last -- term in office ends next year, and many observers have suggested he would try to amend the constitution to stay in office. Last month, the head of the upper house of parliament proposed making such a change. But Putin has consistently dismissed the idea, and his statement in the speech underlined the point clearly.

"The next state of the nation address will be given by another head of state," he said.

He then acknowledged that many had expected this speech would be his opportunity to openly state which person he wanted to follow him, but instead said "it is premature for me to declare a political will."

Russia enters a high-stakes political season this year with parliamentary elections in December, followed by presidential elections in March. Russian officials in recent months have complained that Western countries are trying to meddle in the political process by funding pro-democracy organizations, and Putin echoed those allegations.

"There is a growth in the flow of money from abroad for direct interference in our internal affairs," Putin said in his address, delivered to the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

"There are those who, skillfully using pseudo-democratic rhetoric, would like to return to the recent past -- some to loot the country's national riches, to rob the people and the state; others to strip us of economic and political independence," Putin said.

Putin did not cite specific countries as sources of the funding but the Russian Foreign Ministry this month complained about US funding of democracy-promoting organizations in Russia.

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