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U.S. Welcomes Yeltsin's Victory At The Polls

Washington, July 5 (RFE/RL) -- From U.S. President Bill Clinton to presidential candidate Robert Dole, Americans have welcomed the victory at the polls on Wednesday of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

President Clinton chose the symbolism of freeing a recovered bald eagle back into the wilds at a U.S. Independence Day ceremony to congratulate Yeltsin and the Russian people for casting "a free and open vote for Russia's democratic future."

"We should take just a moment on our Independence Day and reflect on what happened in Russia yesterday," Clinton told the crowd at the ceremony Thursday.

He pointed out that when he was growing up, it would have been "unthinkable that in just a few decades the soviet empire would be no more, the Soviet Union would be a collection of independent countries, and the great Russia would be a free country with free elections."

"This is an historic achievement," Clinton said. He added: "The Russian people have turned their back on tyranny; they are turning the corner toward freedom. They and their leaders have cleared another important hurdle in building a new and enduring democracy."

Clinton drew some laughter from the crowd when he congratulated Yeltsin on his "re-election" and said, with a pause, that that had a "nice ring to it." Clinton is, of course, running for re-election himself.

The American president said he wanted to congratulate the Russian people most of all on what he said was a milestone. "They have been consistent in being good citizens, turning out in these elections, and showing that they are fully capable of exercising the powers of democracy," Clinton said.

Said Clinton: "So as we celebrate our freedom and independence, we applaud them for their freedom and independence as well. That bodes very good news for the future of the entire world as we move together into a new century."

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher joined Clinton in congratulating Yeltsin and the Russian people. In a statement made available to RFE/RL, Christopher said the U.S. will continue to stand with the Russian people "in their pursuit of democratic change and free market reform."

He said the U.S. and Russia now have the opportunity to make further progress on major problems confronting the world, including arms control, non-proliferation, the fight against terrorism, common efforts in Bosnia and the Middle East and efforts to integrate Russia into the global economy.

Said Christopher: "The progress of democracy in Russia and our engagement with that country has made America safer and opened vast opportunities for our nation, for Russia, and the world."

On Thursday, the people in the United States celebrated their Independence Day -- marked each July 4th. It is one of America's most patriotic holidays which commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress in 1776.

Traditionally, it is also a day for picnicking and oratory and during an election year as this year is, for campaigning.

Robert Dole, the former U.S. Senator who is seeking the office of the presidency, took just such an opportunity in a small town in the state of Illinois to make a campaign stop and deliver a patriotic speech on Thursday.

That is where he chose to also congratulate Yeltsin and the Russian people for choosing democracy and rejecting "the communist past."