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Mikhail Gorbachev Says He Plans To Run For President

Moscow, March 1 (RFE/RL) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says he will run for President of Russia in the June 16 elections.

Asked at a news conference in Moscow today whether he will run, Gorbachev answered he would. However, he did not make a formal announcement of his candidacy. Gorbachev--who turns 65 tomorrow -- had told reporters yesterday that he would wait until later in March for an official declaration.

Gorbachev also called on democratic forces to unite and form a coalition to overcome a strong Communist challenge expected in the presidential poll. He said the Communists cannot be trusted.The Communist party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, is considered a top challenger to president Boris Yeltsin's bid for a second term especially after his party fared well in December's parliamentary elections.

Our correspondent says Gorbachev has already collected some 700,000 signatures in support of his candidacy. Under Russian law, each presidential candidate must collect at least one million signatures by mid-April to be included on the ballot.