Medvedev To Be Russian PM If Putin Elected President

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is contesting Sunday's Presidential election, confirmed on Friday his plans to appoint current President Dmitry Medvedev as Prime Minister in the next government if he (Putin) was elected President.

"My offer to him and our agreement on such power sharing, it's not only about [our] willingness to stay in power, but also to continue the reforms that have been launched," Putin said in a lengthy interview with Editors-in-chief of several leading foreign newspapers in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence near Moscow.

"The offer to Medvedev to head the government is explained by the fact that he himself has initiated a range of positive processes, both in our economy and in the political sphere, designed to strengthen democracy in the country, Putin was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

Putin and Medvedev had announced in September last their plans to swap jobs after Medvedev's presidential term expires in 2012. Putin said the plans were agreed four years ago when he picked Medvedev as his successor to the Presidency.

Asked whether he was going to "tighten the screws" on Russia's Opposition if he returned to the Kremlin, Putin said: "Where do these fears come from? We are not planning anything like this. We are doing just the opposite. Our proposals are aimed at launching dialog with everybody, both with our supporters and critics."

When asked whether he was planning to seek another term in the Kremlin in 2018, Putin said he was still undecided. "I don't know whether I want to stay [in power] for more than twenty years. I have not yet decided," he said.

Putin has been Russia's President for two consecutive terms in 2000-2008. As the Russian Constitution barred him from running for a third term, he appointed Medvedev as his successor.

Commenting on Russia's position with situation on Iran, Putin said Moscow would do its best to prevent a war which he said would destabilize the entire region and have "very negative, direct consequences" for Russia. "We will do everything possible to prevent a military conflict either in Iran or around it. I think no one is interested in the situation getting out of control," he said.

Tensions over Iranian nuclear activities have risen to boiling point over the past few weeks since Tehran announced mid-January that it had begun enriching uranium in the heavily fortified Fordow mountain plant.

Replying to a question, Putin said Washington's talks with Moscow on European missile defense failed because U.S. negotiators were unwilling to put their oral proposals to Moscow on paper. "They made some proposals to us which we virtually agreed to and asked them to get them down on paper. But they told us: we would offer you this, this and that," he said. "We did not expect this, but I said: we agree. Please put it down on paper."

Putin said Russian negotiators were waiting for the U.S. answer "for two months," but "our American partners then withdrew their own proposals, saying: no, it's impossible."

He explained that those "proposals" included guarantees that the U.S.-NATO European missile shield would not be directed against Russia. For example, Russian specialists would be allowed to carry out round-the-clock monitoring of the anti-missile components, and their radars systems would be cemented so that they were directed exactly at Iran and "were technically unable to turn towards Russia."

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