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#11 - JRL 7230
Blair praises Putin's leadership qualities in interview for Russian agency

London, 19 June, correspondent Mikhail Gusman: "Britain today has very good relations with Russia", British Prime Minister Tony Blair told ITAR-TASS in an exclusive interview.

During the interview which took place at the Premier's official residence at 10 Downing Street, Blair noted that "Britain is getting ready for the forthcoming state visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin". "This is a remarkable event in the life of our two countries," Blair said.

He recalled that he had first met Putin before the latter officially took up the post of Russian president [in 2000]. Blair added that he "values highly the contacts that have developed".

"I consider the Russian president to be a very strong politician who tells people the truth to their face. I like that and I believe it to be a very important feature for a leader," he said.

"The world has changed and I think that we do not always realize the scale of the change," Blair added. "We have managed to establish new relations between NATO and Russia, and we now often take decisions together. We have set aside some of the differences that existed in the past. Russia and Europe are set to expand their cooperation in many areas and this will have immense future significance," Blair said.

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