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    PUTIN SAYS HIS RIVALS ARE WORTHY PEOPLE

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    MOSCOW, March15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The incumbent president, Vladimir Putin, told journalists at a press conference at this campaign headquarters early Monday morning that he believes the presidential election campaign was positive for everybody.

    Replying to the question from RIA Novosti, Mr. Putin pointed out that he could not fully observe his rivals' election campaign because he was busy.

    At the same time, he admitted that some critical remarks about the authorities that were expressed during the televised election debates were correct.

    "Everybody wants to live well, be healthy and rich. How to achieve this is the question," Mr. Putin said.

    While explaining why it is always more difficult for the incumbent to conduct an election campaign, Mr. Putin pointed out: "They [the incumbents] always have something to be criticized. And those who criticize are almost not vulnerable."

    "But I say again, all of my election rivals are worthy people. They showed good intellectual and competitive qualities. They are aware of the country's problems and drew the attention of Russian citizens and the authorities to [the problems]. I think that the election campaign was good for all of us," Mr. Putin pointed out.

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