Putin says will serve Russia after stepping down

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TEHRAN, Oct 16 (Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin today played down the possibility of returning as president, but said he would still serve his country after stepping down next year.

Putin said that under the Russian constitution he must step down after two consecutive terms and spoke of the obstacles to returning to his country's most powerful office after a break, but made clear he was not retiring from public life.

''To be elected after missing one presidential term is in theory allowed by law, but life is very dynamic and it's difficult to say what happens in the next few years,'' he said in an interview with Iranian media.

''For now, I can say I want to be there, where I will serve to the people of Russia,'' he said.

He dismissed as speculation the possibility he would become Russia's Prime Minister, though he has talked about it positively when he agreed to head the parliamentary election list of the United Russia party just weeks ago.

''At the moment this is but rumours,'' he said in Iran.

On Oct 1, Putin said the possibility of him returning as premier was ''a quite realistic suggestion'' if the United Russia party won control of parliament and if a capable person he could work with is elected Russia's President next March.

Returning to the language he deployed a day earlier during his Summit in Wiesbaden with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin emphasised that he would adhere to his country's current electoral rules.

''There is a constitution which is dear to me and I believe it's letter and spirit should be obeyed.'' ''The constitution does not allow a President to be elected for more than two consecutive terms at a time,'' he said.

REUTERS RSA KN2311

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