Clinton calls Yeltsin, other leaders Private meetings on transition held

November 06, 1992|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- President-elect Bill Clinton spoke by phone to a handful of world leaders yesterday, including Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, and continued meeting privately with members of his transition advisory board.

But on his second day in his new role, he remained largely out of sight and was even close-mouthed and dismissive about his phone call with Mr. Yeltsin, saying it was not "substantive."

But later, Kremlin spokesmen said the Russian president invited the president-elect to Moscow and suggested further cuts in weapons.

Mr. Clinton made no announcements about a transition staff or any appointments.

"I think he'll take as long as it takes to find the right people," domestic policy adviser Bruce Reed said about impending appointments.

Clinton spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers said the president-elect was talking to a wide range of people about the transition personnel and policy. She said the process of selecting people for top positions, including a transition team chief, would be much like that used for the vice-presidential selection.

"The governor took his time and decided not to be pressured by some arbitrary deadline," she said.

But as boxes were being packed and equipment loaded on trucks, the transition from campaign to administration seemed chaotic yesterday, and little information was being offered. "We don't know anything, honest," Mr. Reed said.

Mr. Clinton yesterday returned calls from world leaders who had phoned a day earlier to offer congratulations, among them President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada, British Prime Minister John Major, South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela and Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato. "They were just welcoming me," Mr. Clinton said.

Asked specifically about the call to Mr. Yeltsin, he said, "We just talked about what he was doing, and I said I supported democratic and free market economics in Russia. We had no substantive conversations."

In the 20-minute conversation, part of which was televised in Moscow, Kremlin spokesmen reported that Mr. Yeltsin said, "I think, Mr. Clinton, that my warm and good relationship with George Bush will not prevent our relations from being even better. The boldness in politics and firm rejection of old dogmas and stereotypes that you stand for match well with the principles of our Russian-American relations."

Earlier, a Russian deputy foreign minister said Mr. Yeltsin had "good chemistry" with Mr. Clinton and wanted to meet soon after the inauguration.

Mr. Yeltsin suggested that he and Mr. Clinton immediately exchange ranking representatives, the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported.

The Arkansas governor was also reticent when asked about his reaction to the punitive tariffs imposed by President Bush on European goods. "We've got one president," he said.

After a whirlwind finish to his campaign, Mr. Clinton has been trying to catch up on sleep. But he left the governor's mansion yesterday before dawn for a jog around the neighborhood and then to a nearby YMCA for a workout.

Later, he went to his office in the state Capitol, where he met briefly with Arkansas legislators and members of his campaign staff.

Ms. Myers said Mr. Clinton is expected to stay in Little Rock through the weekend and to take some time off before Monday to rest.

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