Yeltsin Won't Seek 3rd Term

Russian President Boris Yeltsin said Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2000, but did little to clear the murky political landscape created after he fired his cabinet last week.

Uncertain health and a law limiting the president's time in office to two terms would seem to rule out a presidential bid in 2000. But in the past, aides have indicated Yeltsin may try to run again.

Speaking before a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Monday, Yeltsin indicated he wouldn't run when answering questions concerning former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's announcement over the weekend that he would seek the presidency. Yeltsin fired Chernomyrdin during last week's cabinet house cleaning.

"A strong leader is needed. . .and taking into account that I am dropping out of the elections, we should strengthen'' the Kremlin team, Yeltsin said.

But the Russian leader only offered lukewarm support for former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin as his successor.

"It's not right for us to think about successors," said Yeltsin, who has dubbed himself "Tsar Boris" in the past. "Kings have successors. But we don't. The people choose."

Yeltsin and other Kremlin officials were apparently caught off guard by Chernomyrdin's announcement over the weekend. A Presidential spokesman told RIA news agency Chernomyrdin's decision was not unexpected. But Interfax news agency Sunday quoted administration officials as saying Yeltsin and his team were indeed caught off guard.

Yeltsin sacked the entire cabinet last Monday and tapped Sergei Kiriyenko, just 35 and less than a year in government, as the new prime minister replacing Chernomyrdin. He said he thought the opposition-led parliament would approve Kiriyenko as premier when it considers his candidacy Friday.

But Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov added yet another twist to this political drama by saying he wouldn't support Kirivenko. Zyuganov told reporters the Communists wanted a Duma vote Wednesday to urge Yeltsin to convene a multi-party round-table and withdraw Kiriyenko's candidacy.

©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report