Putin keep experts guessing about his future

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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Monday said he had not yet decided whether to stand for Russian president in 2012 but made an intriguing reference to four-term US president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

With speculation heating up over whether Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev will stand in the 2012 polls, Putin vowed that neither he nor the current Russian president would do anything against the Russian constitution.

Putin ruled Russia as president in the maximum two consecutive terms allowed by the constitution from 2000-2008 and then handed over to Medvedev, becoming a powerful prime minister.

After a four-year break from the Kremlin, there is nothing to stop Putin standing for another two presidential terms.

"There was an American president -- Roosevelt -- who was elected four times in a row because the law allowed it," Putin told an annual meeting of international experts on Russia known as the Valdai Club.

Franklin D. Roosevelt served an unprecedented four terms as US president from 1933-1945, spanning the Great Depression to World War II, and dying just before the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

"Neither me nor President Medvedev will do anything that runs counter to the basic law, the constitution of the Russian Federation," Putin said.

"We have talked about what we will do in 2011 or at the start of 2012 several times. We will act according to the real situation in the country, from what we have done, from the mood of the country.

"It's still early to talk about this," he added at the meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Many experts believe that Putin still holds the real power in Russia and has been planning to return to the Kremlin in 2012.

Putin also pointed to Britain's new governing coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and said that tandem had more "hardship" in store than the one in Moscow.

"Medvedev and I have been together for 20 years. We have been to the same university and we have the same attitude toward the development of the country. It is quite easy for us to cooperate."

On foreign policy, which is traditionally the responsibility of the president, Putin had some words of praise for US President Barack Obama, saying he was "a very deep, profound person with his own view of the world."

"We do see eye to eye in our assessment of the world's problems," said Putin.

© 2010 AFP

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