BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) -- Half a world away from the unsettled struggle for the White House, President Clinton told Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign leaders Wednesday that "there's nothing to worry about" in the overtime contest to choose his successor.
He said there is plenty of time for the American system to work, and it will, to determine whether Vice President Al Gore, his chosen successor, or Republican Gov. George W. Bush was elected 43rd president in the disputed election Nov. 7.
"I think other leaders should have the same reaction the American people have," Clinton told reporters in the lobby of a lavish Brunei guest house, with Putin at his side. "I think they're pretty relaxed about it and we'll let the process play out."
Putin, through a translator, said Moscow is anxious but is respectfully awaiting the outcome. He said Clinton has led a breakthrough in U.S.-Russian relations, "and we expect this torch to be given to whoever will be the successor."
Clinton and Putin conferred for 75 minutes over lunch at the Assara Guest House where the Russian is staying.
An administration official, briefing under ground rules that forbid use of his name, said their conference covered subjects including arms control, Iran, the Middle East, North Korea and the situation in Russia itself. Citing humanitarian grounds, Clinton also asked Putin to release Edmond Pope, an American imprisoned since April while he awaits trial on spy charges in Russia.
At a conference of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which brought Clinton and 20 other leaders to this sultanate on the coast of Borneo, the president said either Gore or Bush would continue U.S. policy "of strong leadership for a more integrated global economy and expanded trade."
Clinton said there was little disagreement between the two candidates on that issue. "On the question of leadership for trade, I think the world can rest easy," the president told Asian and Pacific business executives in the ballroom of the ornate Empire Hotel and Country Club, overlooking the South China Sea.
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