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    MOSCOW, March 18, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Nikolai Kharitonov, the runner up in the March 14 presidential elections, said he does not want to be a leader of the Leftist bloc and that he does not want the Communist Party (KPRF) to split up.

    The Russian press regarded Mr. Kharitonov 13.7% in the presidential elections (KPRF received only 12.6% in the December 7 State Duma elections) as a possible shift in the leadership of the party.

    "Gennady Zyuganov embodies the huge opposition power. He is a big time politician. I have no claims to the party leadership and I see no reasons for the KPRF and leftist bloc to split," Mr. Kharitonov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

    Gennady Semigin, the head of the People's Patriotic Union, is promoting the idea of a new KPRF leader and announced opening of the Congress of the Leftist Forces. Mr. Zyuganov said that his that his party would not take part in it.

    Mr. Kharitonov said that he regards outcome of the presidential elections as the reason Leftist forces should rally around the KPRF. "Semigin is too late. Have you ever seen him at a meeting? We have no time for the split now," Mr. Kharitonov said.

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