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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Clinton Places Telephone Call to Acting Russian President, Vladimir Putin

Aired January 1, 2000 - 5:02 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The year 2000 dawned with President Clinton placing a phone call to Moscow and Russia's new leader starting his first full day in office. Mr. Clinton phoned acting President Vladimir Putin to offer his well-wishes and his cooperation.

CNN's Chris Black is at the White House, and she joins us now with more -- Chris.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Clinton had a warm personal relationship with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and White House officials say he would like have an equally good relationship with Mr. Yeltsin's handpicked successor. So today, in one of the only official things President Clinton did today, he placed a telephone call to acting President Putin and spoke to him for about 10 minutes.

Joe Lockhart, President Clinton's spokesman said that Mr. Clinton congratulated Mr. Putin on his new position, and told him that he thought the peaceful transfer of power in Russia was an encouraging sign for democracy in the future in that country. The two leaders acknowledged that the two countries have some differences, particularly over Chechnya and Russia's policy toward that breakaway republic. But they said they agreed on more than they disagreed. And Mr. Putin said that he was committed to Democracy, a reassuring pledge to White House officials for an official that they acknowledge they still don't know very well.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Putin have only met twice since Mr. Putin became prime minister last August. And the last time they met, in Oslo, in November, they had a very sharp disagreement over Chechnya. The telephone call took place about an hour after the president and the first lady delivered a New Year greeting to the nation from the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: If we can build one America and make our diversity our greatest strength, then perhaps other nations will see the advantage of working to overcome their own ethnic and religious tensions.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We begin the 21st century well poised to be that guiding light. Seldom in our history, and never in my lifetime, has our nation enjoyed such a combination of widespread economic success, social solidarity and national confidence, without an internal crisis or an overarching external threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACK: The millennium celebration was one of Mrs. Clinton's project for past year, so she took a very high profile at many of the events that took place yesterday and today in Washington, not bad exposure for a candidate running for the U.S. Senate from New York -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, getting black to Vladimir Putin, the president's only met with him a couple of times, but the president's National Security adviser, Samuel Berger, did have long-standing relationship with him, Mr. Putin being the national security adviser to Boris Yeltsin before he actually became the prime minister and now acting president.

What are hearing? What kind of person is Putin, according to Berger and other U.S. officials?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, they don't feel that they know him as well as they knew Boris Yeltsin. In the large part, it's a matter of style. Mr. Putin is a very reserved person, as opposed to Mr. Yeltsin, who's very outgoing. It's very hard not to know exactly where Boris Yeltsin is standing. And because Mr. Putin is quite reserved and quite self contained, they're not quite sure where he's coming from. They're not quite sure of his real commitment to Democracy. So they're taking a little bit of a wait-and-see attitude, though obviously they're hopeful that things will work out well.

BLITZER: Chris Black, our White House correspondent, thanks for joining us.

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