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RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin greets IOC members in Kremlin

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed members of the International Olympic Committee to the Kremlin on Thursday, saying that the Olympic ideal of ``peaceful, honest competition'' must live on.

``In the 20th century, the Olympic movement became a powerful force for uniting the world, for uniting humanity,'' Putin told IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch and his fellow committee members.

``As the 21st century begins, we are convinced we must fight and win only in peaceful, honest competitions. We must remain faithful to Olympic ideals and principles,'' he said.

The IOC is meeting in Moscow this week to determine who will succeed Samaranch and what city will play host to the 2008 Olympic Games. Jacques Rogge of Belgium is considered the front-runner to become IOC chief, while Beijing is the front-runner for 2008.

Samaranch, who began his presidency in Moscow in 1980, expressed gratitude to Putin for Russia's organization of the IOC meeting.

``This session will be a historic one,'' he said. ``Olympic Games are a unique gathering of youth of the world.''

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien arrived in Moscow on Thursday for talks with Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and to attend the IOC meeting. Toronto is one of Beijing's top rivals for the 2008 Games.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was also due to arrive in Moscow on Thursday to help support Paris' bid. Istanbul, Turkey and Osaka, Japan are also candidates but are already considered out of the running.
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