Kremlin aide says Medvedev wants another term

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A top aide to Dmitry Medvedev gave the broadest hint yet Friday about the Russian leader's future by saying he was eager to return to power after his mandate expires in 2012.

"I believe he does," Kremlin economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich told the BBC when asked whether Medvedev wanted another term in the Kremlin.

"Otherwise he would not work seriously on the initiatives he announced, he would not push for the implementation of those things. Any president who thinks he will step back in one year behaves in a different way," Dvorkovich said in the English-language interview.

"I think that from what anyone can see when they look at what President Medvedev does, he believes that President Medvedev wants to continue his term and continue the agenda he started in 2008."

The comments represent the clearest indication to date that Medvedev was gearing his team for another term in office.

The Kremlin chief has been forced this month to deal with US cable leaks identifying him as a hesitant leader who played second fiddle to the country's real commander -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The ex-KGB agent Putin has already served two terms as president but is allowed to run again under a constitutional quirk. He can legally serve two more terms and has never excluded the possibly.

Medvedev has also extended the presidential term from four years to six in a move that was backed by the ruling Kremlin party and appeared tailor-made for Putin's long-term return.

But the embattled Kremlin chief has recently mounted a comeback of his own.

He acidly remarked that any suggestion that Putin was the real man in power showed the "cynicism" of US foreign policy.

The 45-year-old former energy executive followed that by indicating that he intended to ensure the "continuity" of his policies in 2012 and beyond.

"I believe that the main thing is to preserve a continuity in the authorities and a continuity in policies," the former chairman of the Gazprom board told a Polish reporter.

Medvedev admitted that his "colleagues" could accomplish the same objective.

"But of course I do not exclude that I will do this work and this is normal for any politician."

The various hints from the two camps are critical because both have vowed not to run against each other -- meaning that any choice would be made behind closed doors.

And that decision would in effect replace the Russian election process: either man becomes the overwhelming favorite to win against a field of weak candidates whose strongest challenger is a Communist who has run and lost badly three times.

Putin last addressed the issue in an interview with CNN recorded on December 1. He said that he and Medvedev shared the same goals and never argued about which of them should serve as the next head of state.

"We work in close contact with President Medvedev," Putin said.

"And we have decided long ago that we will reach a concerted decision about the 2012 election (that serves) the interests of the Russian people.

Dvorkovich admitted that he could not rule out a return for Putin.

"As both of them have told the public many times, I'm not excluding anything for 2012," Dvorkovich said according to a transcript of the interview.

"And given their constructive relationships and friendship they will sit and consult with each other about who should go for the elections. They didn't take the final decision yet.

"From what I heard from President Medvedev, he's not excluding the opportunity he will go for the elections and certainly he wants to do that."

© 2010 AFP

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