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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia's Ivanov denies presidential ambitions

RIA Novosti

09/06/2007 17:41 ST. PETERSBURG, June 9 (RIA Novosti) - Sergei Ivanov, widely seen as a likely candidate to succeed Vladimir Putin, denied Saturday he harbored any presidential ambitions.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a major economic forum in Russia's second city, St. Petersburg, Ivanov said: "I was only appointed first deputy prime minister three months ago. It would be wrong to say I am prepared to move on."

A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Ivanov, 54, was promoted from defense minister in February, a year before presidential elections are due in Russia. A fluent speaker of English, he earlier served in the intelligence service, including as a deputy to Putin, then head of the Federal Security Service in 1998-1999.

Putin has been expected to handpick his successor, but early this year he said he would not make a public statement until the campaign begins in December. The presidential polls are slated in March 2008.

Putin, who is popular in Russia for presiding over dramatic economic growth and bringing relative stability following the turbulent 1990s, has repeatedly denied reports he might amend the Constitution to clear the way for a third consecutive term. But he has refused to rule out a presidential comeback in 2012.

Other potential presidential hopefuls include Dmitry Medvedev, another first deputy premier overseeing much-touted national projects designed to raise living standards in Russia.

"I am doing my job, tackling the scope of responsibility set for me by the president and the government," Ivanov said.

Ivanov is in charge of projects to encourage the development of hi tech and manufacturing industries to make Russia less dependent on world prices for oil and natural gas, currently its main export commodities.

In St. Petersburg, Ivanov set out the national economic strategy until 2020, reassuring foreign investors of Russia's commitment to free markets, and promising further measures to curb corruption and red tape.



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