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By Emil Danielyan

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin all but ended on Thursday speculation about Levon Ter-Petrosian’s possible political comeback, saying that the Armenian ex-president told him on Tuesday that he will not stand in next February’s presidential election. Yeltsin also publicly endorsed the reelection of the current Armenian President Robert Kocharian.

Asked about details of his much-awaited meeting with Ter-Petrosian, he said: “We didn’t talk about politics. He just said at his own initiative that he is not going to engage in politics, that he is not going to put forward his candidacy for the Armenian presidency. I do understand his position.”

“I support the person who deserves to be president for a second term. It is Robert Sedrakovich [Kocharian],” Yeltsin declared as Kocharian stood by his side at a conference hall in Yerevan’s most expensive hotel.

Yeltsin’s comments were the first explicit message from Ter-Petrosian about his political plans for the near future. The 57-year-old reclusive ex-president, who was forced into resignation in February 1998 by his key minister led by Kocharian, has for months been the subject of speculation about his possible participation in the February vote. His aides have said all along that he is unlikely to seek a return to power without building a broad-based opposition coalition.

Yeltsin’s endorsement of Kocharian suggests that the current Russian leadership is also in favor of the latter’s reelection.

The 71-year-old former Russian leader was speaking to reporters at the end of his five-day trip to Armenia during which he visited the country’s cultural and historical sites and spent a lot of time with Kocharian. Yeltsin will fly back to Moscow on Friday.
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