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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'He Sounds So Good,' Clinton Says Of Yeltsin


WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton said Friday after talking to President Boris Yeltsin by telephone that Yeltsin joked and sounded "quite good" in spite of widespread concerns about his health.

"I didn't have to ask him about his health because he sounded so good," Clinton told reporters at the White House. Clinton had called Yeltsin to congratulate him on his re-election, a White House official said.

Clinton did not ask after the Russian president's health during the 25-minute conversation, but Yeltsin volunteered that he was tired and was looking forward to taking a vacation after his inauguration on August.

The White House official said the Russian president called his nearly 14 percent winning margin a mandate for economic reform, adding that the Russian people had made "a historic choice for democracy and economic reform."

"The president [Clinton] was confident from what President Yeltsin told him that economic reforms would continue and that there would be no retreat from policies President Yeltsin has [pursued] during his tenure," said the official.

On Thursday, Clinton cheered Yeltsin's re-election as a good omen for world peace.

"As we celebrate our freedom and independence, we applaud them for their freedom and independence as well," Clinton said as he commemorated the Fourth of July holiday. "That bodes very good news for the future of the entire world as we move together into a new century."

Yet the administration's relief was tempered by uncertainty about Yeltsin's intentions for his second term, his failing health and the tremendous economic and social problems facing Russia.

Administration officials said Vice President Al Gore will travel to Moscow next week to congratulate Yeltsin in person and to discuss U.S.-Russia policy with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is fast becoming one of Washington's favorite Russians.

These officials said Yeltsin's decision on the day after the election to retain Chernomyrdin in the prime minister's post is an early sign that the on-and-off pro-Western policy that marked Yeltsin's first term is on again. Clinton, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and other top U.S. officials made no secret of their preference for Yeltsin over Communist Party challenger Gennady Zyuganov.

Expected Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, speaking at a campaign stop in Wheaton, Illinois, said Russian voters "again have shown their commitment to democratic ideals and free institutions."

At the same time, Dole pointedly cautioned: "Events in Russia over the past few years -- and the past few weeks -- demonstrate there is reason for caution over developments there."

If Yeltsin reverts to the free-market, pro-democracy policies that marked his early years, he will give an important boost to Clinton's foreign policy objectives.

Christopher expressed a rosy-hued vision of that kind of future.

"We now have the opportunity to advance the considerable progress we have already made with President Yeltsin's government, including on arms control and [nuclear] nonproliferation, the fight against international crime and terrorism, our common efforts in Bosnia and the Middle East and Russia's integration into the global economy," he said.