Putin to push Iran-IAEA cooperation

Sept. 27, 2003 at 2:44 PM
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CAMP DAVID, Md., Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said his country supported measures to make sure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapons program but did not offer troops to help the U.S. effort in the rebuilding of Iraq.

Appearing at a news conference with President Bush at the U.S. president's retreat at Camp David, Md., Putin's comments answered one of Bush's foreign policy concerns, but left one of Bush's biggest domestic controversies unsolved by refusing aid in Iraq.

Bush's position on Iraq, which was widely supported by the U.S. public immediately after the rapid U.S.-led military victory over the Saddam Hussein government this spring, has become a domestic political liability. Support as measured in public opinion polls has sagged as near daily attacks on U.S. troops have continued.

That support has eroded further since Bush made a nationally televised speech in which he said he was requesting $87 billion for the war on terror, with most of the money ear-marked for rebuilding and military projects in Iraq.

Bush said he and Putin had discussed rebuilding projects in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan.

"I was encouraged that -- that it was clear that our governments will continue to work together on this very important matter, a matter of freedom and peace," Bush said.

Putin reiterated Russia's position that the Provisional Governing Council of Iraq and the United Nations play "an important role" in the establishment of a "free, democratic and united state."

"We have differences over Iraq as to practical ways of how to solve this problem," he said, adding later that he wished actions in Iraq would be guided "without excessive emotions or ambitions."

Bush said, "I am pleased with the amount of cooperation we are receiving -- a coalition of nations inside of Iraq working hard to bring security to that country, as well as to help rebuild the country.

"I recognize that some countries are inhibited from participation because of the lack of a U.N. resolution. We are working to get a satisfactory resolution out of the U.N."

Talks on nuclear proliferation seemed to go better for Bush, where the major points of the two-day meeting with Putin involved the weapons program of North Korea and Russia's aid to Iran in the development of a nuclear reactor at Bushehr -- a project worth $800 million to the Russians.

"We shall give a clear but respectful signal to Iran about the necessity to continue and expand its cooperation with the (International Atomic Energy Agency)," Putin said.

Bush said, "We share a goal, and that is to make sure Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program. ... You heard the president say that the IAEA process must go forward. We firmly agree. I found this part of our discussions to be very satisfactory, form the U.S. point of view."

After Bush said that North Korea should "completely, verifiably and irreversibly end its nuclear programs," Putin said the key to the current conflict between North Korea and the United States should have as a priority "to unblock the conflict situations around the Korean Peninsula to create a favorable climate, favorable atmosphere for a constructive dialogue. And Russia believes that ensuring nuclear non-proliferation regime should be accompanied by extending to North Korea guarantees in this sphere of security."

Putin said that when Afghanistan was attacked by coalition forces two years ago, when the ruling Taliban refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden who had been linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Russia was approached about entering the battle against the U.S.-led forces.

"We were approached by people who intended to fight against Americans in Afghanistan," Putin said. "And if, by that time, President Bush and I had not formed an appropriate relationship, as we have, so no one knows what turn the developments in Afghanistan had taken."

The Russian president did not mention which countries or groups had approached his country.

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