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Russia: U.S. Pledges Cooperation With Primakov

Washington, 11 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has pledged to work closely with Yevgeny Primakov, the man chosen to be Russia's next prime minister.

White House spokesman Michael McCurry said Thursday Washington expects a good working relationship with Primakov, should he be confirmed by the Russian state Duma. McCurry called Primakov, currently the acting foreign minister, a "fierce advocate" for Russian national interests and said the United States "knows and respects" him.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright telephoned Primakov to congratulate him. Her spokesman said both pledged to continue working closely together.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin picked Primakov after the Duma twice rejected his first choice, acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Primakov, 68, is a veteran on the Russian political and diplomatic scene. His career goes back to the Soviet era. He specialized in Middle Eastern affairs.

Under Primakov's stewardship at the Russian foreign ministry, Washington and Moscow have had public disagreements over differences in policy concerning Yugoslavia and Iraq. Primakov has tried to soften U.S. policy toward both countries regarding sanctions and possible armed intervention.

At the State Department, spokesman James Rubin said Albright and Primakov had "a very warm and friendly" telephone conversation.

Rubin said: "They indicated they intended to continue to work closely as possible together in the future and that they would be seeing each other in New York at the General Assembly."

The U.N. General Assembly begins debates in its current session Sept. 21 with many heads of states expected to attend.

The State Department spokesman noted it is up to Russia to choose its political leaders and policies. He said a key concern of U.S. policy toward Moscow has been that Russia pursue "democracy and constitutional rule."

Rubin said: "Many questions remain to be answered before we or the Russians themselves have a clear sense of where that country is heading. Our views will depend on whether they will keep Russia on the course of reform."

He added: "That means democracy, market economics, integration with the rest of the world and a foreign policy that respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, particularly neighboring ones."