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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Christopher Sets TalksWith Yeltsin, Primakov

WASHINGTON -- Eager to confirm that Russia remains on a path to free enterprise and democracy, Secretary of State Warren Christopher set up Friday two meetings with Kremlin leaders -- one next month in Helsinki, Finland, and the other in March in Moscow.


The first meeting will be with Yevgeny Primakov, the new foreign minister, in Helsinki on Feb. 10 and 11. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns called it a chance "to get better acquainted and to establish a working relationship."


The second meeting will bring Christopher to Moscow sometime in March. Responding to an invitation from President Boris Yeltsin, he will meet there again with Primakov as well as with Yeltsin and other leaders in a government undergoing significant changes as Yeltsin seeks to deflect criticism of his reform policies.


Christopher will go to Helsinki from the Middle East, where he has scheduled five or six days of shuttling between Jerusalem and Damascus.


In April, President Bill Clinton is due to go to Moscow for talks with Yeltsin. Christopher's two meetings are designed to gauge Yeltsin's commitment to reformist policies.


On Thursday, the administration welcomed new pledges of continued reform from Russian leaders, but reserved judgment on Yeltsin's selection of Vladimir Kadannikov to succeed Anatoly Chubais as first deputy prime minister in charge of the economy.


This and other changes prompted administration officials to question Yeltsin's commitment to political and economic reform. On Thursday, spokesman Burns expressed satisfaction with Moscow's responses.


"Recent statements by President Yeltsin and others made publicly, but also a number of statements made to us privately in Moscow over the last couple of days, have encouraged us to believe that the Russian government will meet its commitments and will continue its general reform orientation," Burns said.


Asked about Kadannikov's appointment, the U.S. spokesman was guarded.


?Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin talked by telephone about Bosnia, Chechnya and other topics Friday night and agreed to stay in touch by phone more often, Reuters reported.


The two leaders also discussed their approaches to the coming Russia-U.S. top level meeting expected to take place within the scope of the "Group of Eight" Moscow summit in the summer, Interfax reported.


White House spokesman Mike McCurry described the 40-minute conversation as "very cordial" and said it was clear that Yeltsin is "fully back at work, in charge, and as he told President Clinton, 'in good shape.'"