LAST CALL: Good wishes get lost in translation

Corporations, interest groups, lobbyists and the press all know that these first weeks of the Bush administration represent a golden - if fleeting - opportunity to establish congenial contact with the new head honchos. Even foreign governments like to get in on the act.

No one knows this better than Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush's press secretary and recipient of plenty of his own warm wishes.

One particular well-wisher, however, might have wasted whatever time he put into his note, which from the sound of it, wasn't much.

During a press conference earlier this month, Fleischer was pressed about Bush's plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. With no relevant information to give, Fleischer offered the only bit of Russia-related info he had.

'I did get a really nice note from (Putin's) press secretary,' he said. 'It was in Russian, so if anybody can translate ...'

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