MOSCOW -- President Clinton told Russian legislators today that partnership despite differences is the right course for both their nations. America and Russia are not destined to be adversaries again, he said, ''but it is not guaranteed that we will be allies.''
''On many issues that matter to our people, our interests coincide,'' Clinton said, and both nations have an obligation to focus on common goals.
He recounted major differences, U.S. missile defense plans and Russia's conflict in Chechnya among them, in a 45-minute address to the parliament.
''The world we seek to bring into being can come only if America and Russia are on the same side of history,'' Clinton said, as he concluded his mission to Moscow with a final call on Russian President Vladimir Putin and a sentimental visit to his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
Clinton was the first American president to address the Duma, assembled in its office-building-style capitol building with members of the upper chamber, the Federation Council. He spoke to a polite but undemonstrative house of more than 400.
As Clinton finished, ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky shouted at other Duma members for applauding him.
''I told him in English, lift the blockade on Iraq, withdraw troops from Yugoslavia and do not intervene in Russian affairs,'' Zhirnovsky said afterward.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said he thought Clinton would be ''more honest'' about the situation in Russia. ''We are for dialogue,'' he said. ''We understand that there can be no war in the modern world.''
Boris Gryzlov, head of the pro-Kremlin Unity group, saw good and bad in the speech. ''It was wrong to mention the conflict in Chechnya in connection with Yugoslavia,'' he said. ''The conflict in Chechnya is an internal affair of Russia, and in Kosovo they committed aggression.''
Clinton's speech replayed much of the agenda that he and Putin covered. ''I know our partnership, our relationship, is fundamentally the right course for both nations,'' he told the legislators.
Clinton said one problem is that many Russians suspect ''America does not wish you well.'' He said that's not so. ''The United States wants a strong Russia,'' he said.
From Moscow, Clinton traveled to Kiev, Ukraine, where President Leonid Kuchma announced that the Chernobyl power plant, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986, will close permanently on Dec. 15.
Clinton said the United States would provide $78 million to help efforts to contain radiation at the troubled plant, and $2 million for safety measures at other nuclear power plants in Ukraine.
''I am very proud and moved to be here today -- this is World Environment Day -- for this historic announcement by President Kuchma that the final reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant will be shut down and the entire plant closed forever.''
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