President Clinton vigorously touted trade and tranquility in Asia Sunday, urging business executives and the many world leaders gathered here to do their part to promote both.
He also warned Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin that money laundering and other forms of financial corruption are a problem that "could eat the heart out of Russian society."
In an hourlong session, Clinton met for the first time with President Boris N. Yeltsin's newest senior deputy. The meeting came while long-standing concerns about financial corruption at the top levels of Russian society are flaring anew.
As Clinton praised the benefits of free trade and explored ways to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula, the crisis in East Timor loomed over the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Among those with whom Clinton conferred about the crisis was Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a leading advocate of multinational intervention to end the bloodshed in the Indonesian territory.
The private conversation -- a "pull-aside," as White House spokesman Joe Lockhart called it -- occurred during the opening session of the APEC summit, which has brought together most of the leaders of the 21 regional economies that make up the organization.
Clinton also met jointly Sunday with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.
In addition to discussing East Timor, they reviewed the three nations' common efforts to dissuade North Korea from test-firing a new missile by offering economic incentives, according to White House officials.
Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky met for about 90 minutes Sunday with Chinese Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng to discuss terms of China's entry into the World Trade Organization -- only a day after Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin agreed to resume those talks.
Lockhart declined to go into the specifics of the discussions other than to say that negotiations continued among their subordinates even after Ms. Barshefsky and the Chinese trade minister had departed.
Meanwhile, Putin told reporters after his meeting with Clinton that no money loaned to Russia by the International Monetary Fund or other international lenders passed through accounts at the Bank of New York allegedly used to launder money from Russia.
A team of Russian investigators was scheduled to arrive in the United States today to help investigators look into whether any of the billions of dollars transferred from Russia through accounts at the Bank of New York involved money from criminal sources that was being laundered.