Yeltsin vows not to seek a third term

Boris Yeltsin yesterday sought to scotch speculation that he will seek another stint in the Kremlin, saying he intends to stand down when his term expires.

A year ago, any suggestion that the then sick and absentee president would continue in office into the next century would have been met by guffaws but his apparent recovery from heart problems prompted suggestions that he intends to hang on into his old age.

Yesterday, however, Mr Yeltsin, 66, was explicit: "My term ends in 2000. I will not, of course, run again," he said during an address marking the start of the school year. Under the constitution, the president is limited to two terms but some commentators have suggested Mr Yeltsin could find a way around this law, as the constitution was only passed by referendum in 1993, two years after he was first elected.

Although he still looks weary at times, Mr Yeltsin's fortunes have much improved since his heart operation in November and the pneumonia which followed. Yesterday he seemed relaxed and fit as he met Roman Herzog, President of his closest West European ally, Germany.

Mr Yeltsin's remarks are certain to intensify jockeying among contenders for his job, who have been trying to elbow their way into the limelight since shortly after his re-election in July 1996. Thrusting to the fore is the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, a tough-talking and flamboyant city boss who this plays host to lavish celebrations marking the capital's 850th anniversary.

Others tipped to run include Alexander Lebed, the erstwhile security chief, the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Boris Nemtsov, First Deputy Prime Minister.

r Germany would seek to return stolen fragments of the Amber Room to Russia, Mr Herzog said. During the war Nazi forces dismantled a room in the Tsarskoe Selo palace near St Petersburg consisting of amber wall panels, a gift from King Friedrich Wilhelm I. They disappeared but a mosaic of marble and semi-precious stones and a chest of drawers turned up in Germany in May.

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