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Chernomyrdin lambastes Bush's "bushism": "this one is something else"

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October 17, 2000 


MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on Monday accused U.S. Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush of telling a "lie" when he said Russian officials had misused foreign aid funds, and he demanded a public apology.

During a televised debate with his Democratic rival Al Gore last week, Bush alleged that Chernomyrdin had diverted loans from the International Monetary Fund to his own use. Bush made the charge to back up his contention that foreign aid should be clearly tied to reform and that the IMF itself should be reformed, and to criticize the Democrats' policy toward Russia.

IMF spokesman Thomas Dawson said that the organization had no evidence that Chernomyrdin had misappropriated any IMF loans. Chernomyrdin has denied any wrongdoing and said he would sue Bush over the allegation.

Chernomyrdin said Monday that he had written a letter to Bush, demanding an apology. He said that by his comments, Bush had "insulted Russia's state and public figures, including myself."

"I regard your words concerning me as an absurd lie, offending my honor and dignity, and as an intentional attempt to smear my business reputation," said the letter, released at a news conference Monday.

Chernomyrdin also criticized Bush for describing as "a troubling piece of information" an agreement signed by Chernomyrdin and Gore in June 1995, allowing the limited sale of Russian arms to Iran.

The agreement permitted Russia to fulfill existing contracts, but not to conclude new deals, according to a U.S. Congressional web site.

"Everybody was informed (about the agreement) ... Why were there no concerns at that time? Why did this question come up only now?" Chernomyrdin said.

"Using Russia as small change to get power - that's too much," Chernomyrdin said.

Chernomyrdin accused Bush of being an irresponsible politician, and said his comments were "not only insulting but also dangerous" for the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

"For a politician aspiring for a high post in a democratic state, responsibility for one's comments is an absolutely essential trait," Chernomyrdin said. "It's a shame that Mr. Bush does not possess that trait."

Gore has come under fire from Republicans for his close relationship with Russian leaders and his hands-on role in U.S.-Russian diplomacy. He and Chernomyrdin co-chaired a joint commission on bilateral ties.

Chernomyrdin also noted that he had close ties with ex-U.S. President George Bush and his wife, Barbara. He praised Bush, Sr., as a "wise politician." But he indicated that he held a lower opinion of his son.

"I know well his mom, his dad. But this one is something else!" Chernomyrdin said.

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