Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Bush, Putin talks to steer clear of muddy waters

AP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin brought deep differences over postwar Iraq and Iran's nuclear program to a two-day Camp David summit they began Friday. But they were expected to play down those disputes and emphasize economic and anti-terrorist cooperation.

Bush will appeal for Moscow's help on a new UN resolution on sharing the burden of the reconstruction of and keeping the peace in Iraq. He also will renew his objections to Russia's role in helping Iran to construct its first nuclear power plant, aides said.

Putin has opposed the US war in Iraq and expressed distress over the continuing conflict there. US officials were heartened, however, that Putin's criticism of the American occupation of Iraq was relatively muted in his UN speech this week.

Putin has ruled out sending Russian troops to Iraq as peacekeepers but may offer limited help of advisers, perhaps as police-force trainers, analysts suggested.

The two presidents also were expected to discuss Russia's oil resources. US officials see rising Russian oil exports as an alternative to volatile Middle Eastern supplies.

Despite their policy disagreements, Bush and Putin have maintained warm personal ties.

Putin was spending Friday evening and much of yesterday at the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains northwest of Washington.

The Russian president arrived a half-hour late on a sunny fall afternoon. A column of navy sailors and Marines greeted the two presidents, who walked to face a phalanx of reporters.

"Glad you're here," Bush said as he threw an arm around a smiling Putin.

The two then shook hands with a small group of aides, including White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Ahead of the meeting, Putin visited the New York Stock Exchange.

He said he hoped for "a breakthrough in our business partnership," even while criticizing US trade restrictions that are vestiges of the Cold War.

In comments broadcast on Russian television, Putin called the restrictions archaic and said, "It is obvious that this causes damage to our relationship."

Bush has asked Congress to lift the so-called Jackson-Vanik restrictions, imposed in 1974 to expedite the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel. Congress has not acted because of disputes over the Iraq war and US poultry exports.

Administration officials said Bush would renew US objections to Russia's nuclear assistance to Iran.

They claim Russian technology is helping Tehran develop nuclear weapons. Russia and Iran insist it is helping to build only a power plant for electricity production.

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