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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
'Don't squeeze N Korea' - Putin
Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin
President Putin's popularity ratings remain high
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korea should not be driven into a corner if the world wants to rein in its nuclear weapons programme.

He said some negotiators "failed to find the right tone" with the country.

He was speaking in a live TV phone-in with Russians nationwide, broadcast on TV and radio.

He said he would not try to run for office again when his term ends in 2008, but said he would try to continue to influence political affairs.

On North Korea, Mr Putin said a solution could be found "with goodwill".

Even in losing the job that I like, I hope I will manage to retain the essential thing - your trust
Russian President Vladimir Putin

"You must never push one of the participants in talks into a corner," he said.

North Korea said earlier this month that it had tested a nuclear weapon.

Mr Putin said he expected to retain political influence after stepping down at the end of his final term in 2008, but did not specify in what role.

"Even in losing the job that I like, I hope I will manage to retain the essential thing - your trust," he said, adding: "With you, we can influence the life of the country" after 2008.

Russia 'alarmed'

On the question of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are both seeking independence from Russia's neighbour Georgia, Mr Putin said Russia had no plans to increase its territory at anybody's expense.

Russia's main goal is to prevent bloodshed in Georgia's relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he said.

If Georgia opts for the use of force, it will make a big mistake, he added.

"We respect the Georgian people... Georgians made a huge contribution to Russian statehood," Mr Putin said, stressing the need for peaceful compromise.

"We're very alarmed by the current [Georgian] leadership's efforts to resolve these problems through force... We want relations with Georgia to get back to normal."

People were able to take part in the phone-in by telephone or e-mail, and residents in nine selected towns put their questions directly to Mr Putin.

More than a million questions were submitted to the organisers' website, many about worries over wages, pensions and rising housing costs.

President Putin answers questions from the public

When the BBC met Mr Putin
07 Jul 06 |  Europe
Putin's hold on the Russians
30 Jun 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Russia
08 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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