Kohl finds Yeltsin 'active and cheerful' in 4-hour meeting German leader says Russian president is still in power despite illness


MOSCOW -- An ailing President Boris N. Yeltsin received his first foreign visitor since his re-election in July, giving Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany a chance to size up Yeltsin's condition during a four-hour informal meeting yesterday.

Kohl said he found Yeltsin "cheerful and active," but also "noticeably worried" about his heart bypass surgery later this month.

Yeltsin, 65, disclosed on Thursday that he needs the surgery, breaking months of silence by the Kremlin on his health problems.

Several prominent politicians, most notably his national security adviser, Alexander Lebed, have since called on Yeltsin to transfer power to Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin during his recovery.

Kohl, who is the closest to Yeltsin among the Western leaders, sought to dispel talk of a power vacuum in the Kremlin caused by the president's illness.

"He does not strike me as the kind of person who would allow power to be pulled out from under his chair," Kohl said after the meeting.

At a lodge 60 miles northwest of Moscow, Yeltsin appeared only briefly to greet Kohl. "It's better to relax here and not work," Yeltsin told his visitor, according to the official news agency Tass. "But we shall work and relax." The two men took a 30-minute boat trip on a lake after their meeting.

Spokesmen for the two leaders said that Yeltsin and Kohl discussed the president's operation, economic ties between the two countries and the war in Chechnya. They also exchanged views on the American air strikes on Iraq, which Russia has protested.

Yesterday, Yeltsin's press secretary said the president affirmed his support for Lebed's peace initiative in Chechnya. Lebed has been seeking unsuccessfully for weeks to meet with Yeltsin to explain his efforts to end the conflict with rebels in Chechnya.

Yesterday, Anatoli B. Chubais, the president's chief of staff, said that if Yeltsin were to transfer powers to Chernomyrdin, it would be only for a short while. "A few hours, a day, maybe two," he said.

Pub Date: 9/08/96

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