Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Russia, US still unable to resolve their differences

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MOSCOW

After weeks of pointed Russian protests over the war in Iraq, President Vladimir Putin and Secretary of State Colin Powell declared on Wednesday that Russia and the US had overcome their recent differences.

They then met in the Kremlin and failed to resolve some of the most contentious of those, involving the future of Iraq.

Powell, emerging from the meeting on Wednesday night with the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, said that the two countries still had "outstanding issues" over Iraq.

Those included the return of international weapons inspectors and the terms of a new UN resolution giving the US and its allies broad control to govern postwar Iraq.

But the tone of Putin's remarks -- if not the results of his meeting with Powell -- nevertheless underscored the dramatic shift in Russia's public position in the wake of the American-led overthrow of President Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq.

"We talked and argued a lot on the problem of Iraq," Putin told Powell at the start of their meeting, referring to the prewar debate, "but I think that we managed to preserve the basic foundation of our bilateral relations."

In an indication of Putin's intent to improve those relations, the lower house of parliament voted to approve the treaty in which the US and Russia pledged to reduce their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons by two-thirds -- to fewer than 2,200 each -- during the next decade.

Putin had met with parliamentary leaders on the eve of Powell's trip to urge them to approve the treaty, signed last year.

Ivanov disputed assertions that the vote had been "a present for Colin Powell for his visit to Moscow."

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