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In an interview with the U.S. magazine Time, Russian President Vladimir
In an interview with the U.S. magazine Time, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the professional skills, competence and integrity of his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush.

The magazine has declared Putin Person of the Year 2007 for increasing stability and enhancing Russia's role in the world.

In an interview taken on December 12, Putin said: "I consider him [Bush] a very reliable partner, and a decent man... And I disagree with those in my country and in the United States who say Bush lacks decency, honesty and even competence."

Putin said he had enjoyed a warm relationship with Bush ever since their first meeting in Bratislava in February 2005.

Bush's international popularity began to plummet after chaos set in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion. On the domestic front, his administration has also come under pressure over a vast rise in national debt, and several major corporate scandals.

Putin said he also cherished the memory of a meeting with former President Bill Clinton at the APEC summit in New Zealand, when the Russian leader arrived as prime minister with "unclear political prospects."

"I remember Clinton rising up from behind the table at lunch, a large table with a lot of APEC leaders around. He came up to me and whispered in my ear: 'Volodya, I suggest we go out together, you and me.' It was a surprise to me, and then this thing happened: he and I stood up, and the rest of our colleagues gave way forming a corridor, and we passed along the corridor to general applause," Putin recalled.

He described such consideration and goodwill as "special chemistry," which he said was very important.

Putin said he was also proud of similar relations with Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Chancellor Angela Merkel.


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