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President rules out constitution changes

Moscow, Dec. 9 (Reuters): Russian President Vladimir Putin today ruled out making any amendments to the constitution following a big victory by pro-Kremlin parties in Sunday’s parliamentary election, Interfax news agency said.

“It is time to end all talk of the need for changes to the constitution. I absolutely agree with those who say that the present constitution has been the basis of stability in society and I consider it has definitely not exhausted all its positive potential,” the agency quoted him as telling legislators.

His comments appeared to rule out the possibility that he was contemplating running for a third four-year term in the Kremlin from 2008.

The pro-Kremlin United Russia party endorsed by Putin won nearly half of the state Duma’s (lower house) seats in the Sunday election.

There had been intense speculation he might use the huge parliamentary support he now enjoys to change the constitution to allow himself to run for a third Kremlin term — something which is not allowed under the present constitution drawn up in 1993 when Boris Yeltsin was in power.

The highly popular Putin is widely expected, however, to seek a second four-year term from next March, especially after gaining such strong parliamentary support.

“Our task is to preserve it (the constitution) and use all that it offers to develop the country. There are possibilities here,” he said.

The election outcome is also worrying international investors who, though hoping a stronger Putin can now push through more legal and economic reforms, fear it may also mean more state interference in the private sector

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